Yesterday the International Society for Stem Cell Research launched a greatly expanded website for the public. While the site, “Closer Look at Stem Cells,” offers a broad overview of stem cell science, the group launched it out of concern stem cell treatments are being marketed by clinics around the world without appropriate oversight and patient protections in place.
The design for the new site provides easy navigation that quickly gets you to brief outlines and opportunities for a bit more information one click down. Most important, the detail page often includes a bright yellow warning icon with messages like this:
“View clinics that offer the same cell treatment for a wide variety of conditions or diseases with extreme caution. Be wary of claims that stem cells will somehow just know where to go and what to do to treat a specific condition.”
I could buy several rounds at the pub if I had a dollar for every time I said something like that to a desperate patient or family member who called CIRM with questions.
With quick reads like “Nine things to know about stem cell treatments,” as well as a more in-depth patient handbook the site provides ample opportunities to get the level of information any individual wants. It offers clear explanations for the different phases of clinical trials and what to expect if you enter a clinical trial.
A task force of society members and staff produced the new site. The chair of the task force, Megan Munsie from Stem Cells Australia, noted some of the concerns that triggered the effort in the organization’s press release:
“Promising clinical trials are underway for many diseases and conditions, but most stem cell-based treatments are still in the future. We hope that the website will foster interest and excitement in the science, but also an understanding of the current limitations of stem cells as medicine and a healthy skepticism of clinics selling treatments.”
Hope mixed with a good dose of skepticism is always a good approach to a new field of science. Our web site also offers advice for things to consider if a person is contemplating going to a clinic offering an unproven therapy outside of a clinical trial.