New web-based guide to stem cell treatments

28 June 2010

The International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) has a launched a new website for people considering stem cell treatments for different conditions.

The ISSCR, whilst promoting basic and clinical stem cell research, has expressed concern in the past about the potential exploitation of patients by clinics and practitioners offering unproven and potentially unsafe stem-cell based therapeutics, calling for improved regulation (see previous news). Their Task Force on Unproven Stem Cell Treatments released a report earlier this month setting out criteria for evaluation, to aid accountability and transparency and combat ‘rogue’ treatment providers (see Medical News report).
The new website, A Closer Look at Stem Cell Treatments, provides information for potential patients, family members and clinicians, and was created as a response to the increasing levels of ‘aggressive marketing campaigns’ for stem cell treatments. Users are offered tools to help them evaluate a clinic or treatment, including background information about scientific principles and questions to ask about the treatment, such as whether there is a medical ethics committee to protect patients’ rights or supervision by an official regulatory body. The intention is to eventually list stem cell clinics and whether or not they provide the ISSCR with evidence of suitable oversight.
ISSCR President Irving Weissman commented: “We feel it is an obligation of the ISSCR to both a) alert patients and caregivers about clinics and other entities that are selling unproven ‘stem cell’ therapies, and b) help shepherd real stem cell advances from discovery to successful patient treatments as rapidly as possible” (see press release).
Certainly, the move to provide consumers with accurate and sensible information to allow them to make their own choices about possible treatments seems an excellent approach to regulation, the more so since it comes from a body that promotes the potential medical benefits of stem cell treatments. A similar method for genetic tests, such as with the proposed Genetic Test Registry (see previous news), is also good idea, although the spectrum of costs and applications for genetic tests is broader and the risks arguably smaller than for stem cell therapeutics.

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