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Survey rates stem cell clinics

12 April 2010
Appeared in BioNews 553

The International Cellular Medicine Society (ICMS) has published a preliminary survey into adult stem cell treatments currently being offered by 22 international clinics. The ICMS hope the results will become a resource for patients considering treatment. But they have faced criticisms for including in their analysis some unregulated stem cell treatments with unproven effectiveness.

Increasing numbers of clinics are offering unapproved stem cell treatments to patients who are prepared to travel large distances and pay substantial sums of money in the hope of a cure, according to Nature's Spoonful of Medicine blog. To give patients more information about these treatments and to help them make informed choices, the ICMS enrolled 22 international clinics in an independent survey. The advertised treatments are promoted as options for more than 70 ailments ranging from diabetes to Parkinson's disease.

The ICMS is a non-profit association who aim to aid the advancement of safe and effective stem cell therapies. They currently have over 200 medical professional members spread over 21 countries. The survey used their membership database by asking them to score the treatments on offer by cost versus the complexity of their techniques, such as cell processing and implantation.

'The concept was to compare the cost versus the complexity', said ICMS medical director and co-founder Christopher Centeno. 'The intent was not to evaluate other aspects of value, such as outcome versus cost'.

The ICMS subsequently established a treatment registry, which will enable the progress of the patients to be followed 20 years post-treatment. Currently six of the 22 clinics have signed up to the registry. The clinics will also have the opportunity to become fully accredited by the ICMS through this registry programme.

The survey has had mixed responses since its publication, according to Nature. Some condemned the inclusion of non-approved treatments in the analysis and others welcomed the chance to look at these treatments in more detail.

In 2009, the International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) launched a task force with the aim of listing all asserted stem cell therapies that are unsupported by published scientific evidence so patients knew where to place their trust. This too received mixed reviews with some patient groups wanting to have more information about the non-proven treatments.

Bernard Siegel, the executive director of the Florida-based non-profit group Genetics Policy Institute supports the ICMS survey saying their reports always aim to have an objective view. 'They're actually trying to at least look at these clinics and offer a perspective', he said.

'The most important thing is to put the information out there so that patients and clinicians can look at it and make their own conclusions', said ICMS executive director David Audley. 'We're not making recommendations on any one of these clinics', he added. 'This is just the data that you as a consumer or a clinician need to look at'.

Survey details stem cell clinics ahead of regulatory approval
Nature |  2 April 2010
8 March 2010 - by Harriet Vickers 
A US company has been granted beneficial 'orphan drug' status by the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for an embryonic stem cell therapy it's developing to treat a rare form of blindness...
10 January 2010 - by Dr Vivienne Raper 
Scientist and patient groups want more safeguards to prevent clinics in the UK from offering unproven stem cell treatments, according to the Guardian newspaper. The calls come as a Harley Street doctor - Robert Trossel - comes before the General Medical Council (GMC) accused of misconduct, the newspaper reports. According to the Guardian, the upcoming GMC hearing will consider allegations that he offered, and made false claims about, stem cell therapy. Dr Trossel is accused of ...
14 September 2009 - by MacKenna Roberts 
Chinese and European experts have jointly issued guidance calling for countries to tighten regulation of experimental stem cell therapies in an effort to deter the rise in so-called ‘stem cell tourism'. The experts identified concerns that certain countries allow stem cell trials and therapeutics to be marketed prematurely without having been adequately clinically tested for safety and efficacy. The ten multidisciplinary specialists in law, ethics, political science and social s...
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