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Biology, Survival

How Did Cancer Drugs Accidentally Reverse Gray Hair?

Gray hair may be optional once we learn how a few immunotherapy drugs miraculously turned back the biological clock for several cancer patients.

Cancer patients' gray hair unexpectedly turned youthfully dark while taking novel drugs, and it has doctors scratching their heads.

Chemotherapy is notorious for making hair fall out, but the 14 patients involved were all being treated with new immunotherapy drugs that work differently and have different side effects. A Spanish study suggests that may include restoring hair pigment, at least in patients with lung cancer.

With the first patient, "we thought it could be an isolated case," said Dr. Noelia Rivera, a dermatologist at Autonomous University of Barcelona.

But she said the research team found the same thing when they asked other patients for photos from before treatment.

The 14 cases were among 52 lung cancer patients being followed to see whether they developed bad side effects from the drugs – Keytruda, Opdivo and Tecentriq.

While most patients did not have a color change, the 14 cases suggest it's not an isolated finding. In 13 patients, hair turned darkish brown or black. In one patient, it turned black in patches.

In another odd twist, the same drugs have been linked previously with hair losing color in patients with another cancer, melanoma. …

Rivera noted that the study drugs have serious side effects that make them unsafe for healthy people. But if it's confirmed that they do change hair color, a different drug could be developed to treat gray hair, she said.


Side effects of these drugs may include death, which can really mess up your hair, so more research is needed.

KEYTRUDA can cause your immune system to attack normal organs and tissues in any area of your body and can affect the way they work. These problems can sometimes become serious or life-threatening and can lead to death.


My best guess about how this could work:

Gray hair happens when pigment-making cells stop working but hair making cells keep making hair.

Your hair doesn't turn gray — it grows that way.

A single hair grows for one to three years, then you shed it — and grow a new one. As you age, your new hairs are more likely to be white. "Every time the hair regenerates, you have to re-form these pigment-forming cells, and they wear out.


Into ripe old age we keep producing new cells, but the lingering old broken cells accelerate damage to the younger ones. A leading and promising longevity approach is to target a person's aging cells, the ones that are producing toxins and damaging the body. By killing those cells selectively, a body's tissues appear rejuvenated.

It will be great if we can one day all live healthy lives indefinitely, but currently we are not intelligent enough as a species in our use of resources to survive such an advancement. In other words, it's bad enough now. We are headed for a population crash of biblical proportions if climate change predictions are accurate. With 300 year lifespans we would even more quickly run out of land, food and water.

Fortunately, only a few people in the world today, like Cher, are immortal.

Just kidding. I have no credible evidence for immortality in humans… yet.


About Xeno

E pluribus unum.


2 thoughts on “How Did Cancer Drugs Accidentally Reverse Gray Hair?

  1. I like your theory, Xeno. It is true that I’m immortal. The plastic surgery is to make me look a little older, so people don’t get suspicious. 😉

    Posted by Cher | 21 Jul 2017, 7:26 pm

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