Report Warns of Clinics Offering Questionable Stem Cell TreatmentsDec 4, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP Many clinics and website are exploiting desperate patients by offering unproven stem cell treatments, a new report says. The International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR), which released the report, said governments and regulatory bodies need to take action to prevent such abuse.
According to Reuters.com, stem cells are the body's master cells. They come in a wide range of forms, including the cells in bone marrow that are widely used to treat cancer and other conditions, to embryonic stem cells -- those that give rise to all the cell types in the body. It is thought that stem cell therapy holds out the promise of new and better treatments for diseases like Parkinson's, as well as catastrophic injuries, Reuters said.
According to the ISSCR report, Canadian researchers analyzed 19 Web sites, all of which offered expensive stem cell therapies for everything from stroke to allergies. While theoretically, stem cell therapy does hold a great deal of promise, such treatment is the standard of care for only a few diseases and conditions. These include hematopoietic stem cell transplants for leukemia and epithelial-stem-cell-based treatments for burns and corneal (eye) disorders.
The authors of the ISSCR report assessed whether the claims made by the websites were substantiated by research reported in the professional medical literature. The report provides clear evidence that the vast majority of the clinics examined over-promise results and gravely underestimate the potential risks of their offered treatments, the authors wrote.
The ISSCR has released Guidelines for the Clinical Translation of Stem Cells that examine the scientific, clinical, regulatory, ethical and societal issues that must be addressed to ensure that basic stem cell research is responsibly transitioned into appropriate clinical applications. The guidelines establish standards that can be used to judge the claims made by stem cell clinics and whether the treatments they offer are being developed responsibly. The ISSCR guidelines also provide information for patients and their doctors for evaluating a stem cell therapy.