Do you have questions about how stem cells could help people with leukemia? We have answers

Put this day and time in your diary. Tuesday, March 25 from noon till 1pm PT. That’s when we’ll be holding our next Google Hangout and the topic this time is leukemia.

We’ll be bringing together three great scientists to talk about their work and experience in finding cures or more effective therapies for leukemia, when we might see those therapies being tested in patients, and what their thoughts are on future directions for research.

Those experts include:
Dr. Catriona Jamieson, University of California San Diego: Dr. Jamieson’s work focuses on mutant stem cells that can evade chemotherapy and ultimately lead to diseases like leukemia recurring. Her goal is to develop treatments that target those mutant or cancer stem cells, and to develop more selective, less toxic therapies, ones that are easier on patients and harder on the cancer. One potential therapy from her work is already in clinical trials in patients and another is expected to begin clinical trials later this year
Dr. Ravi Majeti, Stanford University: Dr. Majeti is part of a team that has identified a protein that sits on the surface of some cancer cells – including Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) – that attaches what he calls a “don’t eat me” sign on the cell so that the body’s own immune defense system doesn’t destroy the cancer, and instead allows it to spread. They have developed an approach that strips that “don’t eat me” sign off the cancer cells, leaving them defenseless and allowing the immune system to destroy them
Dr. Karen Berry, stem cell agency Science Officer: Dr. Berry oversees many of the leukemia research projects that we fund and has a broad base of knowledge about this area.

One thing those brief bios don’t tell you is that these are three incredibly passionate and articulate scientists who enjoy talking about their work and explaining it to the public.

And there’s a lot to talk about. We are making great progress in this area so it promises to be an engaging and encouraging hour.

Google Hangouts are great because not only do they allow you to see and listen to the experts, but you can also ask questions in real time. If you have a Google+ account, you can post questions directly to the Hangout’s event page. You can also Tweet your questions using #AskCIRMLeukemia or email them to Info@CIRM.ca.gov.

Don’t forget: you don’t need a Google+ account to watch, just go to the event page.

And best of all, it’s free.

kevin mccormack

Stem cell society webcast looks at what patients should expect from clinics offering cell therapies

Geoff Lomax is CIRM’s Senior Officer for Medical & Ethical Standards

Yesterday, the International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) sponsored a public webcast titled: Oversight of Stem Cell Treatments. The Webcast used the example of a recent US District Court of Appeals decision to frame a conversation about the appropriate regulation of stem cell therapies. CIRM grantee Lawrence Goldstein of the University of California at San Diego and Margaret Foster Riley of the University of Virginia School of Law discussed the importance of an effective environment for developing stem cell therapies.

With regard to cell-based therapies, Dr. Goldstein alluded to what he called the “colorless liquid problem.” He was referring to the fact that there are many clinics offering stem cell treatments, but it is often difficult for him, or anyone else, to understand what they are offering.

To address this problem, Dr. Goldstein indicated that any such treatment should include:

· A precise description of the cell treatment and how it will be given to the patient

· A mechanism for experts to review the treatment procedure

· A system for collecting data on the performance of the treatment so we can measure how it does over time and with different patients

· Methods for allowing access to data to “contribute to shared knowledge”

· Accountability mechanisms so there is accountability for various claims about the safety and performance of procedures

Dr. Goldstein and Professor Riley emphasized that “good regulation,” such as that carried out by both the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA), brings these attributes to a system that is flexible and responsive. They emphasized that regulatory bodies are experienced in reviewing information about new treatments for patients, and are committed to getting the best treatments to patients, but they also have an obligation to protect the patients and the public and that means carefully reviewing that information. Members of the public can login to the ISSCR Connect platform to view the archived webcast.

What was interesting about the Webcast is the fact that much of what Dr. Goldstein and Professor Riley emphasized has been incorporated into CIRM’s Alpha Stem Cells Clinic initiative. This program is designed to provide an optimal environment for the development and testing of new cell therapies. The goal is to bring treatments to patients as quickly as possible while ensuring effective safety systems are built into the process. It is great to see CIRM and ISSCR are on the same page.

Geoff Lomax