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Alopecia in patients treated with molecularly targeted anticancer therapies

V. R. Belum, K. Marulanda, C. Ensslin, L. Gorcey, T. Parikh, S. Wu, K. J. Busam, P. A. Gerber & M. E. Lacouture



The introduction of molecularly targeted anticancer therapies presents new challenges, among which dermatologic adverse events are noteworthy. Alopecia in particular is frequently reported, but the true incidence is not known.


We sought to ascertain the incidence and risk of developing alopecia during treatment with approved inhibitors of oncogenic pathways and molecules [anaplastic lymphoma kinase, breakpoint cluster region-abelson, B-rapidly accelerated fibrosarcoma, Bruton's tyrosine kinase, cytotoxic T-lymphocyte antigen-4, epidermal growth factor receptor, human epidermal growth factor receptor-2, Janus kinase, MAPK/ERK (extracellular signal-regulated kinase) Kinase, mammalian target of rapamycin, smoothened, vascular endothelial growth factor, vascular endothelial growth factor receptor, platelet derived growth factor receptor; proteasomes; CD20, CD30, CD52]. Electronic database (PubMed, Web of Science) and ASCO meeting abstract searches were conducted to identify clinical trials reporting alopecia. Meta-analysis was conducted utilizing fixed- or random-effects models.


The calculated overall incidence of all-grade alopecia was 14.7% [95% confidence interval (CI) 12.6% to 17.2%]-lowest with bortezomib, 2.2% (95% CI 0.4% to 10.9%), and highest with vismodegib, 56.9% (95% CI 50.5% to 63.1%). There was an increased risk of all-grade alopecia [relative risk (RR), 7.9 (95% CI 6.2-10.09, P ≤ 0.01)] compared with placebo, but when compared with chemotherapy, the risk was lower [RR, 0.32 (95% CI 0.2-0.55, P ≤ 0.01)].


Targeted therapies are associated with an increased risk of alopecia.

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