Paxman Scalp Cooling: A global business with family roots, on a mission to change the face of cancer

Chemotherapy-Induced Alopecia (CIA) is consistently ranked as one of the most feared and common side effects of chemotherapy treatment. The emotional effect is considerable and it can have a dramatic impact on self-esteem. Longstanding Medilink member, Paxman, manufacture the world leading Scalp Cooling System that is used to combat this side effect. What began as the vision of a family from Huddersfield, Yorkshire, more than 25 years ago, has evolved into a ground-breaking medical device, which has helped over 100,000 cancer patients worldwide to keep their hair during chemotherapy.


Inspiration for the Paxman device


In the early nineties, CEO Richard Paxman’s Mum, Sue Paxman, experienced first-hand the effect that chemotherapy-induced hair loss had on her quality of life. As a family, they discovered that this sense of patient helplessness was common. In fact, chemotherapy-induced alopecia remains one of the top five most distressing cancer treatment side effects, to this day.

“Mum was just 34, with four young children, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. The idea of losing her hair was something she couldn’t bear,” says Richard. “She tried scalp cooling at her local hospital in Huddersfield, but it wasn’t effective. She was devastated.” The Paxman family business at that time was refrigeration, and Richard’s father Glenn, an engineer, decided to explore why the cooling hadn’t worked for his wife. Fast forward 25 years and with significant worldwide proven safety and efficacy data Paxman is now the global market leader in the scalp cooling technology that helps reduce chemotherapy-induced hair loss for those undergoing cancer treatment.


What is scalp cooling and how does this treatment save hair? 


It’s a simple treatment which involves the patient wearing a Paxman cold cap before, during and for a period of time after the infusion of the chemotherapy (only whilst in the treatment room). The cap is connected to the scalp cooling machine – a refrigerated device that allows a liquid coolant to be circulated around the specially designed cap. This enables the scalp temperature to be reduced, which helps to prevent damage to the hair follicles in several ways. Firstly, by reducing the temperature of the scalp, vasoconstriction occurs, which significantly reduces blood flow (to as little as 40%) and means that less of the drug will reach the hair follicles; secondly, the cooling process causes the rapidly dividing hair cells to become dormant, meaning they stop dividing, so that any chemo drugs that reach the scalp will bypass the hair follicles.


The rate of hair retention varies from patient to patient and is dependent upon the chemotherapy regimen. It is important for patients to continue with scalp cooling at each chemotherapy treatment in order get the full benefits of hair preservation. Successful scalp cooling is evaluated by patients’ feelings – measured by the patient not feeling that they need to wear a wig, or head covering such as a hat, headscarf etc. If a patient can walk down the street with confidence and happiness, that’s a successful outcome.


Leveraging support


Medilink have played an enormous part in Paxman’s journey from those first tentative steps into the world of medical devices. Right from the outset of Paxman’s membership, the business has leveraged all the support available, and credits its Medilink membership as a keystone in its export strategy. In those early days, gaining access to and attendance at sector specific events and trade missions around the world enabled Paxman to build strong relationships, trusted international partners and ultimately, increase awareness of scalp cooling as a solution for a common side effect in cancer care. 


The importance of export


In the UK, Paxman Scalp Cooling is implemented in 98% of UK hospitals across both NHS and private sectors. However, the demand is far from met in all other global markets. Since the beginning, export was considered an important strategy for Paxman and currently makes up over 80% of the company’s annual turnover. The product is distributed to over 60 markets internationally, however, the global growth potential has yet to be realised. Paxman continue to work with a direct regional presence alongside new and established distribution partners in key regional markets in Asia, including Europe, Japan, China, the Middle East, and the USA. 


Intensive work over the past 25 years with thought leaders in many global markets means that the company now has extensive experience and more than 65 published clinical studies, conducted in more than 17 countries utilising the Paxman Scalp Cooling device. This also includes the first-ever randomized multi-centre clinical trial to evaluate modern scalp cooling, which took place at a number of US Cancer Centres as part of the FDA regulatory clearance process. In the 5 years since FDA clearance was granted, Paxman Scalp Cooling has become a treatment option in over 400 hospital locations in 40 states. By the end of 2021, over 4,000 Paxman scalp cooling systems were installed around the world. 


Improving patient access to scalp cooling


Paxman’s purposeful work with leading academics and community oncology institutions has led to the inclusion of scalp cooling on the country’s National Comprehensive Cancer Network® (NCCN) annual guidelines. The treatment is also included as a recommendation for the prevention of chemotherapy-induced alopecia on other national cancer care guidelines across the globe, including Cancer Australia, Germany, The European Society of Medical Oncology (ESMO), The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), and is used as a standard of care at some of the world’s most trusted medical institutions. 


In addition, in 2021 the American Medical Association (AMA) granted coding and an appropriate payment level to be determined for the Medicare coverage of scalp cooling. This is a huge step in the right direction for patient access to scalp cooling in the USA, which is currently a self-pay treatment.


Paxman’s mission is to improve scalp cooling efficacy for patients globally, and as part of that commitment, an internationalisation process has been embarked upon to ensure cancer patients around the world can easily access scalp cooling education and awareness materials in their own language. It is well known that an educated patient has a better outcome, and therefore this strategic approach enables patients to make an informed choice about scalp cooling, self-advocate and stay educated throughout the entire scalp cooling process via the patient focussed website:

Ultimately, Paxman’s long-term goal is to enable all patients undergoing chemotherapy get access to scalp cooling, and to make the Paxman Scalp Cooling System the first choice for cancer patients all over the world.


“Awareness is still our biggest hurdle. Patients may only have up to half an hour with their oncologist when they receive their diagnosis. There is so much to speak about that hair loss is never going to be top of that list.  But if the patient doesn’t find out about scalp cooling in the very short window before they start treatment, the opportunity to help them might be lost. Alongside working with professional bodies for nurses and physicians around the world, our social media and digital presence is crucial – we know that if people search independently to find out more about chemotherapy hair loss, they will certainly engage with us. We are confident that the treatment will become a standard of care throughout the world in the near future” says Richard.