The Looming Stem Cell Tourism Disaster: my case to patients and families to be cautious

Stem Cell Tourism is a blanket term now used to refer to patients receiving non-FDA approved stem cell treatments either by traveling here within the U.S. or more often outside the U.S. Clinics are sprouting up all over the world offering treatments based on stem cells. The science behind these is often non-existent. Most stem cell scientists are very worried about this situation.

But as both a stem cell scientist and also a cancer survivor, I am very sensitive to the situation of patients and families.

There are millions of people for whom conventional medicine has little if anything to offer. Particularly in the cases of severe, acute and potentially fatal diseases, when patients and family members hear the mantra of stem cell therapies becoming realities in 5-10 years or longer, waiting does not seem like an option.

So it is only understandable and logical that people in desperate situations look for other, immediately available options, but I make the case to you to err on the side of caution. The motto of medicine is “first, do no harm”. As bad as your current situation might be, it could get worse by going to one of these clinics. Getting a non-approved stem cell treatment is very unlikely to make it better and could cost you or your loved one their life.

I write this article especially to all of you considering going to a non-FDA approved facility to get a stem cell treatment for yourself or a loved one, perhaps even your child.

My advice–talk to your own personal physician, talk to stem cell experts here in the U.S., and consider the potential risks very seriously.

As a stem cell scientist, I have no vested interest in telling you not to go to these clinics. I have no investments in any stem cell-related companies or stocks that might compete with these companies.

I want stem cell medicine, regenerative medicine, to succeed and help people.

The reason I am writing this is that I am very worried that you are only getting one side of the story and you will not only lose your money, but also could get seriously injured.

In contrast to me, the people running the stem cell clinics have a very strong interest in convincing you to get the treatments.

They want your money.

Think about it.

 

6 Comments


  1. Well sadly no one chose to engage with the post I made about media reporting of stem cell research, so Paul whilst I wholeheartedly agree with you (and to be honest from a logical standpoint, who wouldn’t agree – we DEFINITELY don’t want non-tested treatments), the media reporting has to change.

    I won’t ramble on like last time, just will say this:
    Much less hype – with sensationlistic headlines that bear no substance.
    Much more solid information available to all.

    Dave.


  2. Like the unproven stem cell clinics, the media are simply in the business of making money. That’s it. You are absolutely right, Dave.


  3. Maybe this will offer some real hope to patients…

    UNBC Scientists Make Technical Breakthrough in Genetics

    “We have discovered that a region of an RNA molecule (known as U4) that was previously thought to play no role in gene splicing is, in fact, essential for assembling the splicing machinery,” says UNBC Chemistry professor Stephen Rader, in whose lab the research was conducted. “We also discovered a new method of studying what this molecule is doing in the test tube. Scientists have been trying to figure this out for about 30 years.”

    http://www.unbc.ca/releases/2011_/07_15breakthrough.html


  4. Something that has puzzled science for 30 years and has now been solved is an achievement indeed and this was good to hear.

    However, does this necessarily link in with bringing forward new treatments or is it more the understanding of processes behind how new treatments might work?
    Would be grateful if anyone could “wade in” on this one and clarify for a dummy like me??!


  5. Stem cell tourism is definitely a problem, but with the ridiculous restrictions put on researchers in the US and the lack of funding, one could argue that the federal government is to blame for the tourism. If we had more money and more support for advancing next generation therapies, desperate Americans wouldn’t have to travel overseas to get a shot at treating a disease that we are now 10-15 years behind in treating in the US.


  6. Thank you for the wise critique. Me & my neighbour were preparing to do some research about that. We received a great book on that matter from our local library and most books where not as influensive as your information and facts. Im really glad to see this kind of facts which I was searching for a long time.
    xyxytodwhy.2011

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