Cold Caps for Hair Preservation for Chemotherapy Patients

LCM-900 installed in the Welkins cold cap system

Hair loss, known as alopecia, has been a long-standing, undesirable side effect of chemotherapy.  Scalp cooling (hypothermia) is considered an option for reducing the chemo dosage impacting the cells of the hair follicles.  Scalp hypothermia decreases activity making the hair follicles less desirable because chemotherapy targets rapidly dividing cells.  Lowering the temperature at the hair follicles in the scalp has the two-fold effect of reducing the reaction rate and simultaneously, through vasoconstriction, reducing the flow of the chemotherapy drugs to the hair follicle.  Scalp hypothermia has been demonstrated to have as much as a 90% effectiveness in preventing alopecia.  However, to achieve the desired result, active cooling must be provided for the chemotherapy procedure (~2 hours) plus about one hour pre-cooling and up to six hours of post drug delivery cooling.

Frozen gel caps have been used with success for scalp hypothermia to prevent hair loss.  However, they do not last long so a large supply must be kept frozen and changed out frequently throughout the treatment which becomes onerous on the clinic’s staff.  Precise temperature regulation with any degree of accuracy is also next to impossible.  Inconsistency in temperature maintenance is a primary reason for failure to prevent alopecia.  Vapor compression based cooling systems have been developed which can provide a steady controlled cooling source that requires little attention from the healthcare provider.  However these system have traditionally been large stationary console units that take up a sizeable amount of floor space and require the patient to be tethered to the unit throughout the six to eight hour treatment cycle.  This increases the time in the treatment chair from ~two hours for the drug delivery phase, to up to eight hours for the entire cooling treatment, thus reducing the number of patients a clinic can treat.  A small, portable cooling unit that can provide the high levels of cooling required with precise temperature control and continuous operation, allowing the patient to be mobile, is required to make scalp cooling a standard in chemotherapy.

Welkins, LLC, a medical device developer and manufacturer, is a leader in cold caps for chemo treatment built on decades of research using a head cooling device to induce hypothermia for victims of head trauma or stroke.  According to Christopher Blodgett, President of Welkins, “Our original systems were based on re-freezable gel packs.  We realized early on that active cooling would be needed for chemo procedures.  Blodgett added, “We spent about a year researching sources for compact refrigeration systems and, fortunately, we found Aspen Systems.”  Aspen supplied the Liquid Chiller Module LCM-900 that demonstrated excellent temperature stability in a small lightweight package.  “In working with Aspen, I was delighted to find out that you’ve been working with a number of other medical device manufacturers along with our common background in working on cooling applications for the military.  Knowing we were getting technology that was military-hardened gave us the confidence that the reliability would match our clinical application.”

“Having been in the medical cooling business over a decade, we’ve seen, evaluated, and implemented a host of supporting technologies. Nothing we’ve encountered can match Aspen’s blend of performance and power in such a small and versatile package; when combined with Aspen’s exemplary applications engineers and support staff, you’ve got a winning combination for success in our core medical and human performance markets.”  – Christopher Blodgett – Welkins, LLC