Oral Minoxidil Demonstrates Efficacy in Treating Later Stage Alopecia in Cancer Survivors


Results of a single-center study presented at the 2022 ASCO Annual Meeting showed that oral minoxidil may be effective in treating late alopecia. Moving forward, these efforts in survivorship care will need to be expanded to less resourced areas, experts said.

Cancer survivors who experience both frontal and occipital late alopecia following cytotoxic or endocrine therapy may derive clinical benefit with oral minoxidil, according to data from a study at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK), which were presented during the 2022 ASCO Annual Meeting.1

Overall, hair and follicle densities increased by approximately 20% across all tested populations, and 74% of patients showed clinical improvement. Moreover, no patients required treatment discontinuation because of adverse events (AEs).

Alopecia is a common AE with approximately 65% of patients who undergo chemotherapy experiencing some degree of alopecia.1 Furthermore, 58% of patients with cancer report that hair loss is the most traumatic component of receiving chemotherapy, and 1 in 7 patients would consider declining chemotherapy because of fear of hair loss. 1

Late alopecia was defined by investigators as the incomplete hair regrowth 6 months following the completion of endocrine therapy or from the initiation of endocrine therapy. This longer-lasting AE reportedly affects between 25% to 30% of survivors.

Scalp cooling is the only known prevention technique, and treatment options include scalp directed topical steroids, compounded topical minoxidil finasteride, intralesional steroids, or systematic oral low dose minoxidil. Oral minoxidil at a dose of 10 to 100 mg daily is currently FDA approved as an antihypertensive agent, but it has been used in low doses off label to treat alopecia at a dosage of 0.25 to 5 mg daily.

Investigators at MSK assessed women with late alopecia who received oral minoxidil at a dose of 1.25 mg daily between January 2018 and May 2021.The efficacy of minoxidil was assessed via standardized photography, and responses were quantified via trichosocpy (HairMetrix).

Results from 42 trichoscopy assessments conducted before and after a median of 91 days (interquartile range, 136) on oral minoxidil showed that the median percentage change in hair density (hairs/cm2) was 20.4% (P = .008) in patients with frontal alopecia and 21.4% (P = .004) in patients with occipital alopecia, respectively. Similarly, the changes in follicular density (follicles/cm2) were 22.5% (P = .007) vs 20.9% (P = .005), respectively. Hair shaft diameter between the 2 groups was –2.0% (P = .22) and 0% (P = .84).

The literature shows that the most common AEs associated with this treatment include hypertrichosis, lightheadedness, and fluid retention. Prospective, controlled studies are still needed to validate these findings, study authors concluded.

Overall, results from this study demonstrate the importance of symptom management in survivorship care, according to experts.

“Treating late toxicities [is] the bread and butter of survivorship,” Lidia Schapira, MD, FASCO, Professor of Oncology at Stanford University with a specialization in survivorship, said in a discussion of the poster. “Patients are often left to manage these by themselves. The idea of helping patients understand, self-manage, and become better at handling toxicities, [starting] from the first day in the hospital, is a very important concept.”

The key moving forward will be expanding these efforts to populations that have less supportive resources currently available, Schapira added.

“Supportive services such as onco-dermatology and supportive dermatology are available at major cancer centers, and I absolutely am delighted to see our colleagues at Memorial Sloan Kettering continue to find solutions for some of these festering problems,” she said. “The question is how do we scale [these efforts] and how do we bring some of these advances in survivorship care to communities that are less well resourced?”


Kuo AM, Reingold RE, Ketosugbo KF, et al. Oral minoxidil for the treatment of late alopecia in cancer survivors. J Clin Oncol. 2022;40(suppl 16):12022. doi:10.1200/JCO.2022.40.16_suppl.12022

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