Targeted therapies are associated with an increased risk of alopecia, a new study published online ahead of print in the journal Annals of Oncology has shown.1

The use of molecularly targeted anticancer therapies has grown rapidly in the last decade, but these agents are often associated with dermatologic adverse events and alopecia. Because the true incidence of alopecia is not known, a team of researchers led by Mario E. Lacouture, MD, Director of the Oncodermatology Program at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City sought to evaluate the incidence and risk of developing alopecia during treatment with approved molecularly targeted agents.

For the study, researchers analyzed data from clinical trials of approved inhibitors of oncogenic pathways and molecules (ALK, Bcr-abl, BRAF, BTK, CTLA-4, EGFR, HER2, JAK, MEK, mTOR, SMO, VEGF, VEGFR, PDGFR; proteasomes; CD20, CD30, CD52) that reported alopecia.

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Results showed that the calculated overall incidence of all-grade alopecia was 14.7% (95% CI: 12.6, 17.2). Researchers found that the highest incidence was with vismodegib (56%; 95% CI: 50.5, 63.1), the Hedgehog signaling pathway targeting agent used to treat basal-cell carcinoma, and the lowest was with bortezomib (2.2%; 95% CI: 0.4, 10.9).

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The study demonstrated an increased risk of all-grade alopecia compared with placebo (P≤0.01), but a reduced risk when compared with chemotherapy (P≤0.01).


  1. Belum VR, Marulanda K, Ensslin C, et al. Alopecia in patients treated with molecularly targeted anticancer therapies [published online ahead of print September 19, 2015]. Ann Oncol. doi: 10.1093/annonc/mdv390.