CIRM has always recognized that the hope of new stem cell therapies hovers in a distant future for patients who need therapy options today. That makes patients susceptible to false promises from practitioners offering unproven and unregulated treatments, some of which may be harmful. A few years ago we developed a stem cell tourism web page to provide information about stem cell tourism and some useful links to patients looking for more information.
Today, we join 12 other organizations in issuing a joint “Patient Advisory for Stem Cell Therapy and Medical Tourism.” This document provides a more robust and detailed set of issues patients should consider when making treatment decisions.
Clearly new therapies cannot happen without innovation, but innovations needs to occur in a controlled fashion and in a framework of regulation that both protects patients, but also assures that information about treatment outcomes is shared. That knowledge can accelerate our pace to finding the best treatment, rather than just a treatment.
The new document offers advice to patients and families on educating themselves, on what is appropriate informed consent and specific things to look for in a clinical trial. It also advises that you should have the opportunity to ask questions and suggests the types of questions you should ask.
The document addresses one of our pet peeves: those clinic ads that come up on web searches and seem to be offering everything to everyone:
“A single stem cell treatment will not work on a multitude of unrelated diseases or conditions. Thus, it is unlikely that a single cell type can be used to treat a multitude of unrelated diseases that involve different tissues or organs.”
The other endorsing organizations include the International Society for Stem Cell Research and the International Society for Cellular Therapy. The full list of organizations is at the bottom of the advisory.