When Greta Schiffman of Raleigh was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1987, she lost her hair, eyebrows and eye lashes during the chemotherapy treatment. She says it was the single most devastating experience behind the diagnosis.
"As I'm shampooing my hair, it's coming out in clumps," Schiffman says. "You are losing your hair, and that changes your whole perspective on yourself."
Stephen Davis and a team of researchers at Glaxo Wellcome have created a compound that could eliminate one of the worst side effects of cancer treatment.
Chemotherapy causes hair loss because it attacks hair follicles like it attacks cancer, but when applied to laboratory rats prior to chemotherapy treatments, the special gel protected the hair.
"The findings were extremely exciting," Davis says. "We had like a patch of hair the size of a quarter on the head of a rat, and that was only where we applied our compound."
As coordinator for theAmerican Cancer Society'sLook Good, Feel Better Program, Schiffman sees Davis' compound as a beautiful step in the battle against a terrible disease.
"This is just simply incredible," Schiffman says. "It would just make everyone feel so much better about themselves. That's one less thing you have to worry about."
Davis hopes the compound will eventually help preserve the hair of human cancer patients. He says it is still too early to tell how long before the compound could be used on humans. Clinical tests could take years.
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