Grants elevate medical student’s research on hair loss secondary to breast cancer treatments

A group of people receive awards from The American Hair Research SocietyFourth-year medical student Lucy Rose’s research on hair disorders following treatment for breast cancer has accelerated due to the research year she’s spent collaborating with Brittany Dulmage, MD, assistant professor of dermatology at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. Dr. Dulmage, a recognized leader in hair research, specializes in oncodermatology, a field that focuses on supportive management of cancer treatment side effects that affect the skin, hair and nails.

“Oncodermatology as a field is focused on patient comfort, mitigation of side effects and survivorship,” Dr. Dulmage says. “Lucy embodies a patient-centered approach to research and her service to patients experiencing financial barriers to reducing hair loss during chemotherapy.”

Rose just received a mentorship grant from The American Hair Research Society (AHRS) that supports young physicians, veterinarians and scientists to further develop mentoring relationships and acquire additional academic or research skills that will further their careers in the field.

“I am passionate about increasing the support for patients experiencing secondary hair loss after breast cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy and endocrine therapies,” Rose says. “This research has the potential to expand the prevention and treatment of hair loss.”

The AHRS grant will pair Rose with Maria Hordinsky, MD, professor and chair in the Department of Dermatology at the University of Minnesota (UMN) and Kimberly Salkey, MD, associate professor in the Department of Dermatology at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). While at these institutions, Rose will share information about a new tool, frequently used at Ohio State, called scalp cooling, which is used to prevent hair loss in patients who are undergoing chemotherapy.

“The Spielman Comprehensive Breast Center at Ohio State was one of the first breast health centers in the country to use scalp cooling,” Rose says. “I hope others can have as much success with patients as we’ve had at Ohio State.”

While at Virginia Commonwealth University, Rose will work with a wig boutique affiliated with VCU’s cancer center to create educational materials about hair regrowth options for interested patients.

“Wigs are great tools for camouflaging hair loss,” Rose says. “But we want patients to know that options exist for promoting hair regrowth, as well.”

Rose will give a presentation in April at the World Congress for Hair Research’s annual meeting on a study completed with another medical student at Ohio State, Abena Minta, titled, Availability of Cranial Prostheses for Black Patients at Comprehensive Cancer Centers. The study examines the volume of existing cancer centers in the country that have wigs available for patients seeking natural-appearing wigs. It contains information and research compiled by researchers and colleagues, including:

  • Lindsey Radcliff, nurse manager within the Division of Medical Oncology at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center (OSUCCC– James) Stefanie Spielman Comprehensive Breast Center
  • Patrick Schnell, PhD, assistant professor in the Division of Biostatistics at The Ohio State University College of Public Health and member of the Translational Therapeutics Program at the OSUCCC – James
  • Margaret Gatti-Mays, MD, MPH, section chief of Breast Medical Oncology and associate professor in the Division of Medical Oncology at the OSUCCC – James
  • Maryam Lustberg, MD, MPH, chief of Breast Medical Oncology at Yale University

“A very small percent of comprehensive cancer centers in the United States have racially inclusive wig options for patients,” Rose says. “I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to share our findings on the international stage. I plan to advocate that more Comprehensive Cancer Centers carry wigs that meet the needs of all patients.”

Rose’s presentation will teach other institutions about the utility of scalp cooling and, in turn, they will learn about innovative diagnostic tools, including the use of artificial intelligence-augmented devices in hair loss clinics. Rose’s experience serving as the patient coordinator for Cap & Conquer, a nonprofit organization that financially supports patients experiencing barriers to accessing scalp cooling due to financial cost, allows her work to touch others.

“I feel very fortunate to have found a way to directly give back to patients by making scalp cooling more equitable and affordable for patients of all backgrounds,” Rose says. 

Rose credits the support from the Ohio State College of Medicine community and her research mentors for the ability to expand her dedicated research and work to advance research and treatment to improve patient care.

“Even more impressive than her productivity, is Lucy’s character,” Dr. Dulmage says. “She has been the driving force behind many projects. What she’s been able to accomplish as a medical student is nothing short of incredible.”