Fetal Stem Cell Therapy Causes Cancer in Teenage Boy

By Rachel Cernansky | February 18, 2009 6:23 pm

stemcell.jpgA new study shows that teenage boy developed cancerous tumors because of the stem cell therapy he received years ago for a rare genetic condition. The boy, now 17, suffered from ataxia telangiectasia, or AT, a neurodegenerative disease that interferes with the part of the brain that controls movement and speech. AT patients do not usually live past their teens or 20s, and the Israeli boy, whose identity was not publicly revealed, was taken to Russia for experimental treatment. The first neural stem cells, taken from fetuses, were first injected into his brain and spinal cord when he was nine, and he received further injections at ages 10 and 12.

His condition deteriorated and he was using a wheelchair by age 13, when he also began to complain of headaches. Tests showed two growths, one pushing on his brain stem and the other on his spinal cord. The tumors were removed in 2006 and his health has since remained stable. But scientists at Tel Aviv University who wanted to determine the origin of the cancer have been in the lab ever since, and their findings have just been published in PLoS Medicine. The team found that the tumor could not have arisen from the boy, because he [has two disease-causing versions of the gene] that causes AT, while the DNA from the tumor cells carried only the normal version [The Scientist].

The tumor studied was the one removed from the spinal cord; they could not test the growth that appeared in the brain, but believe it was also caused by the injected tissue. Donor-derived cells might have been able to spark tumours in this patient because people with ataxia telangiectasia often have a weakened immune system, say the researchers. It is not clear whether the stem cell therapy helped his genetic condition [BBC].

The case raises a number of ethical questions. For all the promise, researchers have long warned that they must learn to control newly injected stem cells so they don’t grow where they shouldn’t, and small studies in people are only just beginning [AP]. And, because the patient’s immune system was impaired, it’s not yet clear whether the increased risk of cancer is specific to patients with suppressed immune systems, something particular to the procedure done in Moscow, or a danger with neural stem cell transplantation in general, said Uri Tabori, a pediatric hematologist and oncologist…. “It’s a cautionary tale for studies currently being done in the US and elsewhere,” said [Arnold] Kriegstein [The Scientist], a U.S. stem cell researcher.

Related Content:
80beats: FDA Approves the First Clinical Trials Using Embryonic Stem Cells
80beats: 5 of 21 Federally Approved Stem Cell Lines Are Ethically Tainted

Image: Courtesy of PLoS Medicine

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine
  • Mark

    They were FETAL stem cells NOT EMBRYONIC.

  • Amos Kenigsberg (Discover Web Editor)

    You’re right, Mark — I made the change. Sorry for the error.

  • Bruce Voigt

    Science has been experimenting with cloning and they have not realized that there is a cell orbiting nuclei speed difference between young and old cells. The longevity of Dolly the Sheep is minimal and will find the same of cells produced by ‘T’ cells of maturity. Science, however, has realized that Stem Cells from our babies work better and won’t realize why until they read my paper.

    Hair follicles contain stem cells.
    The same would be found in cuticles of the fingernail – The thing here is that to grow new STUPH, cell division must take place. Fast orbiting nucleus nuclei such as fetus, hair follicle or fingernail cuticle (instigating cell division) would help in cell division of cells in a packed state.

    Because of inflammation again causing cell packing, the success rate of this will be low.
    No matter what is used, AURA of adjoining cells will influence and change (clone) the new substance (as long as it’s same species).
    The big problem is controlling inflammation.

    All that AURA of an amputee that is just going to waste, is now, with the help of New Technology and a open minded surgeon, is capable of growing a new limb or whatever and stem cells of any kind are not required!

    What ever the cause, tumors (cancer) are the results of cell division taking place within cells that are in a packed state.

  • http://www.semeioticabiofisica.it Sergio Stagnaro

    Overlooking Quantum-Biophysical-Semeiotic Constitutions present use of Stem Cells is dangerous, as I illustrated formerly in diverse websites:
    In my opinion, a great lot of money on studying stem cells, in spite of their origin, accounts for the reason there is an overlooked bias in such as research articles, as I wrote elsewhere (http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/comments/display?contentID=AR2007041101736&start=41
    In fact, in performing stem cell researches all around the world scientists overlook both an inherited mithocondrial cytopathy, I termed Congenital Acidosic Enzyme-Metabolic Histangiopathy and Biophysical-Semeiotic Constitutions 1-6 See website For instance: accordingly, type 2 diabetes is a major problem worldwide, a real epidaemic. Independent of different countries, in recent decades diabetes prevalence has increased rapidly over time among both developed and deceloping populations. Surely, genetic factors alone cannot explain these patterns. However, as allows me to state my clinical experience, See URL: an individual, without diabetic AND dyslipidemic biophysical-semeiotic constitutions, can not be involved by type 2 diabets, at all 1-6. Certainly, rapid changes in lifestyle and risk factors such as obesity, unhealthy diets, physical inactivity, tobacco smoking, a.s.o., acting on people with diabetic and dyslipidemic constitution may cause, AT FIRST, Pre-Metabolic Syndrome, then, over years or decades, metabolic syndrome 2, 6, IGT, and finally type 2 diabetes. In a few words, all around the world, e.g., the war against diabetes mellitus and its well-known and harmful complications, as well as the war against all other serious and common human diseases, is nowadays possible, also utilizing possibly staminal cells of “whatever” origin, exclusively by means of a primary prevention, which must be perform at the bed-side, i.e., clinically, on a very large scale, using the simple stethoscope. In addition, we must in the future utilize staminal cell, even of amnyotic fluid, of individuals not involved by above-cited biophysical semeiotic constitutions! In other words, in both primary prevention and screening programme for whatever disease, including DM and its complications, and cancer, we need efficacious clinical tools to obtain the best results, avoiding, e.g., to use staminal cell with impaired mitochondria. Really, early diagnosis must certainly be established in asymptomatic patients, who, for example, are evolving slowly towards diabetes mellitus, i.e. long time before disease onset, in order to avoid the well known, severe complications. In fact, to prevent these diabetic complications, including diabetic retinopathy, on very large scale it is extremely necessary that doctors use a clinical tool reliable in diagnosing early diabetes mellitus stages, from initial stages, i.e., quantum-biophysical-semeiotic constitutions, and then the Pre-Metabolic Syndrome. (1-5)
    1 Stagnaro S., Stagnaro-Neri M. Valutazione percusso-ascoltatoria del Diabete Mellito. Aspetti teorici e pratici. Epat. 32, 131 1986
    2 Stagnaro Sergio, Stagnaro-Neri Marina. Introduzione alla Semeiotica Biofisica. Il Terreno oncologico. Travel Factory SRL., Roma, 2004
    3 Stagnaro S., Stagnaro-Neri M., Le Costituzioni Semeiotico-Biofisiche.Strumento clinico fondamentale per la prevenzione primaria e la definizione della Single Patient Based Medicine. Ediz. Travel Factory, Roma, 2004.
    4 Stagnaro S., Istangiopatia Congenita Acidosica Enzimo-Metabolica. Una Patologia Mitocondriale Ignorata. Gazz Med. It. – Arch. Sci. Med. 144, 423,1985 Infotrieve.
    5 Stagnaro S. Diet and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes. N Engl J Med. 2002 Jan 243464:297-298. [MEDLINE].
    6 Stagnaro S.-Neri M..Stagnaro S., Sindrome di Reaven, classica e variante, in evoluzione diabetica. Il ruolo della Carnitina nella prevenzione del diabetemellito. Il Cuore. 6, 617, 1993, [MEDLINE].

  • Kin

    Why are Discover comments so…weird..?

  • Egaeus

    It’s not just Discover. I’ve seen some of the oddball commenters at other science-themed blogs/websites as well. I notice that people here seem to ignore them, which is best.

  • Amos Kenigsberg (Discover Web Editor)

    Bruce, let’s please try to keep the comments a little more on-topic and grounded in science—less STUPH and AURA, more particles and waves.

  • Lemoni

    With all due respect to Mr Stagnaro, the relevance of your comment is completely and utterly overshadowed by your inability to communicate clearly and understandably. You may have the answer to the whole world peace question, but if nobody understands what the heck you’re trying to say…

  • Lemoni

    I also didn’t realise this was the corum to plug your latest “research”. Publish in a recognised and respected peer reviewed journal first and h ave your results validated before sellign it as gospel, please.

  • Lemoni

    I meant forum, of course…

  • Richard Smoker

    Dear Mr. Bruce Voight,

    Please please please sir, stop posting on this site. You are a certified whack-job whose posts are not just out there, they are waaaay past the furthest “out there” known to modern science. Layoff the drugs and take a deep breath. Leave the science to someone who knows something about it…like the turd I dropped in my toilet this morning.

  • Amos Kenigsberg (Discover Web Editor)

    @ Richard:

    I already in another post told Bruce to keep the comments more grounded and in-line with DISCOVER topics or I’ll remove them. Don’t worry, we will protect this forum in the name of truth and justice.

    I’d also ask you to please keep the tone more civil than your comment.

    Btw, the Gener recovered from his pneumonia.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qJpB3nL8bQs&feature=channel_page Sciencegoddess

    As a university instructor who also gives public talks about stem cells and tissue engineering, understanding the field quite well, I must say that the two posts by Mr. Voigt and Mr. Stagnaro were completely confusing. I suspect neither has a base in current accepted practices. Fetal and embryonic stem cells causing tumors is a very real problem as the cell is very plastic (able to be easily influenced and manipulated–part of their beauty) and have the potential to become cancer as well as the cells they were hoped to become. Thank you, Ms. Cernasky, for your article.

  • http://www.guashashop.com Radford

    Great take on the technique, I haven’t seen it done this way before

  • http://www.semeioticabiofisica.it Sergio Stagnaro

    I responde only now – I visit rearly this website – to all, who have replayed with comments, apologizing for my “medieval” English. Although some attacks against me are thrivial, unfounded , I ignore them, of course, I am very delighted with the discussion on my initial comment: correct, intelligent discussion is food for scientific advances!. However, in the Literature, you my read a large number of papers referring cancer, ostoporosis, a.s.o., provoked by stem cells therapy!

    I shall not visit this website and write comment in the future, and cancell suddenly this website from my “Preferiti”.

    Kind regards

    Sergio Stagnaro


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