What began as the vision of a family from Yorkshire has evolved into a ground-breaking scalp cooling system, which has helped over 100,000 worldwide cancer patients keep their hair during chemotherapy. Here, Kathryn Daniel reflects on the global journey of the pioneering Paxman brand…
More than 25 years ago, Sue Paxman experienced first-hand the effect that chemotherapy-induced hair loss had on her quality of life. Together with her husband Glenn – founder of what is now the international Paxman brand – she discovered that this sense of patient helplessness was common. In fact, alopecia remains one of the top five most distressing breast cancer treatment side effects, to this day.
Working in partnership with medical professionals, research centres, cancer support groups, charities and patients, the innovative scalp cooling system was therefore born. Glenn’s goal was to empower patients with dignity and choice.
Clinical trials, R&D, and health service dialogue over the past two and half decades have been extensive and, unsurprisingly, work remains ongoing. Paxman may have grown to become the world’s leading manufacturer and supplier of scalp cooling equipment, but with cancer touching the lives of more people than ever before, the mission is far from over.
How does scalp cooling work?
If a patient wears a cold cap when undergoing chemotherapy – and the temperature of the scalp is reduced by a few degrees immediately before, during and after treatment – cell division decelerates, blood flow and drug diffusion to hair follicles lowers, and alopecia can be prevented or minimised.
Success rates are determined by how well the scalp temperature is moderated throughout. The Paxman cap has therefore been designed from lightweight silicone, through which a liquid coolant can pass for optimum effectiveness.
The global scalp cooling journey
Innovation in the technology will perhaps never stand still, with work currently underway to raise the ‘zero hair loss’ success rate of Paxman’s cold cap, from 50:50 to 80:20 by 2020.
However, the goal to remain at the forefront of this progressive industry requires an unswerving commitment to analysing every facet of the business, not just the treatment method.
So, when faced with steep growth plans back in 2015, the Paxman team began work on the evolution of the brand. This had never been a crowded market, with only three companies offering scalp cooling systems worldwide. But with the help of UK-renowned brand consultancy The Engine Room, Paxman was able to further hone its proposition for even greater strategic impact.
Exploratory workshops were held with stakeholders at every level – including patients and medical associates – to refresh the brand’s visual identity and language. The Paxman family’s personal experience of cancer and therefore the company’s sense of purpose far beyond a corporate growth quest, consequently became clearer.
The export strategy would enable the family-run firm to improve the quality of life for an ever-increasing number of cancer patients worldwide, irrespective of their location. And that passion was more than skin deep.
Empowered with this fresh sense of perspective, Paxman pursued further investment and dialogue with international oncology experts, with notable results.
In April 2017, the scalp cooling system achieved clearance for use by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This milestone moment followed a three-year randomised clinical trial involving 186 state-wide female cancer patients, with the cold cap preserving hair in over 50% of those involved. With more than 1.6 million annual diagnoses of cancer in the USA – and Paxman cooling systems already installed in 59 US sites – it is hoped that patients will now have greater choice and control. The Paxman brand also hit the headlines of NBC Boston in April 2018, and FDA clearance expanded to treat all solid tumour cancer patients in June.
Further approval by the Taiwan Food and Drug Administration was achieved in July 2017, awareness of scalp cooling is spreading in Spain, and trials are underway in Japan too, to name just a few wider international highlights.
In all, there are currently more than 2,700 Paxman systems in use in 32 countries worldwide. But armed with a powerful new brand, slick but personal company websites and honest, patient-driven campaigns, these figures only look set to rise.