With stem cell tourism getting closer to home know the “ISSCR facts”

Over the past few years the stem cell research community has become increasingly concerned that the actions of overseas clinics offering unproven therapies would taint the field as a whole. The International Society for Stem Cell Research has been particularly active in monitoring this phenomenon and has set up a special web site to help inform the public: A closer look at stem cell treatments.

Internet searches have long turned up scores of off shore clinics offering therapies for numerous diseases, usually not specifying what the actual cell therapy is. They generally provide only anecdotal testimony of any therapeutic benefit, and no long-term data showing what percent of their patients’ conditions improved and that the improvement lasted over time. Recently these internet searches turned up similar looking clinics making similar claims, but based here in the U.S.

An article in yesterday’s Sarasota Herald-Tribune details a reporter’s effort to answer a query from a desperate woman wanting advice about a Florida clinic she was considering taking her husband to for therapy for his chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The reporter directed to the woman to the ISSCR web site but also provided a nice summary of the organization’s “Top 10 Stem Cell Treatment Facts.”

Here are a couple of “facts” I consider most critical for patients to consider:

2. A single stem cell treatment will not work on a multitude of unrelated diseases or conditions.

4. Just because people say stem cells helped them doesn’t mean they did.

9. An experimental treatment offered for sale is not the same as a clinical trial.

The Herald-Tribune article offers more detail on each fact. We also provide more information on the topic on our web site. We co-hosted a public symposium on proper clinical trials with ISSCR in 2010 when the organization’s annual meeting was in San Francisco. A video of that presentation is also available on our site.

We also produced this video with CIRM grantee and Scripps faculty member Jeanne Loring discussing her concerns about stem cell tourism.


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