White hair is usually taken as a sign of old age but it has been said by the researchers on Saturday that in advanced melanoma patients taking a new type of cancer treatment, it may be a very good sign.
Experimental drugs like Bristol-Myers Squibb's ipilimumab and Pfizer's tremelimumab aim to fight cancer by improving the immune system. These drugs have the peculiar effect of turning some patients’ hair completely white. The patients had a complete response to treatment whose hair turned white, which means on CT scan their tumors were no longer visible.
This suggests that white hair may be an early sign that the drugs will work against the deadly skin cancer. Dr. Anna Pavlick, Director of the melanoma program at New York University's Langone Medical Center, who has treated
48 patients with ipilimumab or tremelimumab, said, "We start to see the depigmentation six months to one year after initiating therapy".
Out of 48, there are 17 patients who showed either complete or partial response to the therapy and there were nine patients who witnessed complete depigmentation of their hair. Those nine patients have had complete response to radiologically. According to Dr. Pavlick, if patients start to develop depigmentation after six to 12 months, they are going to have a durable response.
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