Stem Cell Society to Get Tough on "Charlatans" & Unproven Treatments

By Andrew Moseman | June 22, 2010 11:34 am

test tubesThe International Society for Stem Cell Research has had enough. When the organization of stem cell scientists met last week in San Francisco, its leaders promised to get serious about unregulated stem cell treatments.

First, society president Irving Weissman declared his intention to “smoke out the charlatans,” New Scientist reported. The ISSCR is investigating its members who provide advice to clinics that offer experimental stem cell treatments (no such treatments have yet received FDA approval).

At a press briefing on 17 June, he revealed that these members are being told to explain their connections with such clinics. Expulsion from the society was a possibility for members who continue to associate themselves with unproven “therapies”, added Sean Morrison of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, a member of the ISSCR board of directors [New Scientist].

Also this month, the society debuted its website aimed to inform people about stem cell treatments (and fraudulent claims). Says Weissman:

“Stem cells do hold tremendous promise for the treatment of many serious diseases. Yet there are organizations out there that are preying on patients’ hopes, offering stem cell treatments – often for large sums of money – for conditions where the current science simply does not support its benefit or safety” [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel].

Authorities are putting the clamps on stem cells treatments abroad, too. Earlier this month Costa Rica shut down the stem cell treatments offered by a top clinic there that was run by an American. Stem cell tourists still have other countries they could flock to for unregulated treatments. But they might think twice after the news last week that a woman died from an experimental kidney treatment in Thailand.

Suffering patients may lose their patience at the slow pace of stem cell research, but Weissman says it’s critical to put a stop to quack treatments when the science is still so young:

“Probably 90 percent of what you hear at this conference won’t be even close to trials” [San Francisco Chronicle].

Related Content:
80beats: Stem Cell Tourists Denied: Costa Rica Stops Treatments at Top Clinic
80beats: Danger, Stem Cell Tourists: Patient in Thailand Dies from Treatment
80beats: FDA Approves the First Clinical Trials Using Embryonic Stem Cells
DISCOVER: Stem Cell Science Takes Off

Image: iStockphoto

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine
  • sanud002

    I agree that it is horrible practice to be preying on the hopes of suffering patients to push experimental treatments. The reality is that we do need to move forward but carefully. I’ll post a link to one of my favorite researchers in this field. His name is Dr. Atala and he has been at the forefront of the stem cell community for some time. I trust that his type of research will move forward swiftly and responsibly.

  • NH Lady

    I would like to know who appointed Dr Weissman as the policer of stem cell treatments?

    He creates a society and then announces he will crack down on anyone HE perceives as fraudulent. In other words, he will turn the clock back on any advances made in the US by many of these doctors. What entails fraud? If the treatment doesn’t provide any improvements?

    Get off your high horse Irv. I can remember a short time ago when you claimed ALL stem cell treatments were fraud . Now that you have realized some of them actually work, you jump on the bandwagon to play good/bad cop.

  • Barbara Hanson

    Personally, I would like to know who made the ISSCR the world police for stem cell clinics. I believe there is more to this than concern for patients. Yes, there are some charlatans out there, but patients that have no options that have terminal diseases should be able to decide for themselves if they want to have an experimental treatment. I have gone offshore and feel that the treatment has saved my life. The ISSCR now has a new horrific case to parade in front of the world. The woman who died from the experimental treatment in Thailand had a direct injection into her kidney. The last case that was used was the boy from the Ukraine who had some ghastly combination of stem cells. This is not the norm. Patients do need to proceed with caution, however, stopping all therapies is way beyond the realm of sensibility. There are thousands of other patients who have had successful, safe treatments that chose not to lay at home waiting to die while the ISSCR and Big Pharma figure out how best to take the industry over.

  • Alexey Bersenev

    NH Lady & Barbara Hanson,
    Right, nobody appointed Dr. Weissman and ISSCR to be “world police” and regulate this question around the world. And they will not do it. There are government regulatory agencies, they should take actions if necessarily.
    The role of ISSCR as well as other professional organizations dedicated to stem cell research and cell therapies – provide useful information and their expert’s opinion, educate patients and physicians, create a database of clinics and available treatments, analyze results of clinical trials and clinical cases, write a guidelines. Not more then that.
    You as a patient have rights to decide for yourself go for this kind of treatments or not. But presence of reliable and available for free educational information online is extremely important in making of your decision and scale risks/benefits ratio. Better then only advertisement of clinics.

    So for sure ISSCR does good job in this direction.

  • Thomas Ichim

    Dr Weissman has made many fantastic contributions to basic science for which he must be respected. Unfortunately he has purposefully or unpurposefully has ignored the tremendous advances made in adult stem cell therapies. Adult stem cells are in Phase III clinical trials whereas embryonic stem cells have has a temporary Phase I approval that was retracted before any patients where treated. Irv’s company StemCells Inc that uses “fetal” stem cells only has a phase I in which 6 children with Batten Disease where treated, of which 1 died.

    The problem with adult stem cell therapies is that some of them can be performed so simply (like autologous bone marrow or adipose stem cells) that “poor countries” have started clinically implementing them. This gives these countries the ability to race ahead of the Stanford’s of the world.

    One can learn more about adult stem cells on my youtube channel


    Thomas E Ichim
    Chief Executive Officer
    Medistem Inc
    9255 Towne Centre Drive
    Suite 450
    San Diego
    CA 92122

  • Antonio Silva

    Dear NH Lady & Barbara & Thomas:
    Your points are well-taken, but I am here to answer your specific question. Paul Joseph Goebbels-Weissman was appointed as propaganda minister by his Fuhrer (Big Medicine) to keep stem cells from affecting Der Fuhrer’s $300,000,ooo A DAY profits. Der Fuhrer has set the rules for American Medicine:
    1–Profits are all that matters
    2–No cures of any chronic disease allowed ever
    3–Patients are lab rats
    Goebbels and Stanford share in hundreds of millions in rewards for their death-dealing services. But the rest of us are lab rats who are fed useless, expensive toxic drugs that do nothing but harm in the long run. Minister Goebbels lies are to train us NOT to complain when we don’t get stem cells.

  • NH Lady

    I believe you have hit the nail on the head.

    What a coincidence huh?

    Guess who works at Stanford?

  • Jennifer Angela

    You hit them with your smarts NH Lady, more power to you for that! Tom attempted to impress us with this high position within society (speaking of “getting off your high horse”… I can think of somebody who needs to get off of his…), but he underestimated the wits of his fellow female citizens. I wish to add, that I also totally agree with Antonio regarding the “feeding patients toxics” matter: That certainly is a huge health “care” (or rather destruction of your remaining health) issue. Don´t get me wrong. Health care is usually a huge act of reprieve and salvation for all of us (e.g. when we break a finger or leg), but overmedication of patients is a huge issue, which needs to be solved.

  • Jane Zurakowski

    NH Lady,

    Your link to doesn’t pull up anything.


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