A Japanese medical team has found that a form of antibiotic could prevent cancer patients from losing hair during chemotherapy, a doctor involved in the research said Monday.
Toshiyuki Sakai said his team had found "alopestatin" reduced hair loss by 70 percent when used on rats also given etoposide anti-cancer drugs.
Etoposide is widely used to treat lung and other cancers but can cause hair loss.
Sakai, professor at Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine, said his team was hoping to to put the agent to practical use in the future.
"I want people to know that few studies have been made on reducing side-effects of anti-cancer drugs," he said.
"This field is lagging behind (the development of cancer drugs) but is still important for patients' quality of life."
The study, which was outlined at an academic meeting in Japan last week, is still ongoing, and the chances are "low at the moment" that alopestatin will be commercialised soon, he said.
No clinical tests are yet in sight, but one possible use for humans would be to apply it to the head in the period when hair loss is most likely to occur during chemotherapy, he added.