A clinical trial of a new cancer drug left doctors baffled when the side effects of the drug caused the gray hair of patients to turn dark. While some cancer treatments are notorious for triggering hair loss in patients, the new immunotherapy drug being tested produced a nearly opposite result.
The study conducted by Spanish researchers found that 14 lung cancer patients who were treated with the new drug exhibited a change in hair color. It appeared that the drug was restoring hair pigment, a bizarre and unexpected result.
Not Just An Isolated Case
When the first such case of the drug’s side effect was detected in one of the patient’s, Dr. Noelia Rivera, working as a dermatologist at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, believed that it was just an "isolated case".
However, once she asked other patients to send their photos from before their treatment, she was surprised to find the change in the patients following the treatment.
Although the study involved 52 lung cancer patients treated with the combination of the drugs –Tecentriq, Keytruda, and Opdivo, and only 14 exhibited a hair color change, it could no longer be ruled out as an "isolated incident" as 14 is quite a significant number.
Hair Change Varies
In 13 of these patients, the gray hair turned black or darkish brown. In one patient, the hair went black in patches. Also, all of these patients with the exception of one responded well to the new drugs. Interestingly, the same drugs were used to treat melanoma cancer patients in an earlier trial where the patients actually lost their hair.
Dr. Rivera said that they now aim to find an explanation for the surprising results and to inspect if the results were purely a fluke, or not.
Dr. June Robinson, a dermatology professor at the Northwestern University, and the editor of JAMA Dermatology that published the study said, “It’s a fascinating report – one of those things that comes out of the blue.”
When it comes to whether or not this treatment could be applied to those looking for immunity for gray hair, the answer is still unclear. Due to possible adverse side effects, multiple studies would have to be conducted before the treatment could possibly be accepted for public use.