Keep hope: the ‘war’ is not over

Many of us have been discouraged by Geron’s decision to end their stem cell program, which included products based on human embryonic stem (ES) cells, but let’s keep some perspective on this and not give up hope.

The opponents of hope want us to give up. They who have waged their own self-proclaimed war on researchers, patients, and their families, are rejoicing. For example, see this self-congratulatory propaganda (if you don’t have a faint stomach). Or choose not to visit that site so as not to give the opponents of hope more encouragement. You probably can guess what they are saying anyway. I can sum the propaganda up for you–‘Geron’s quitting on stem cells means that ES cell research is a failure and causes cancer, and we have knocked you out.’

It’s a bunch of baloney.

In the opponents of hope’s view, they’ve won their war against us scientists and patient advocates and others who support stem cell research in the broadest sense. To them, I say this was just one battle and the “war”, if that is how they see it and call it, is not over.

This is not over.

To them I say, you lost the battle in the federal courts against NIH funding of ES cell research. ES cell research will continue. The clinical trials by ACT will continue. Other clinical trials will start and continue. Great adult stem cell research will continue too. iPS cell research will continue. Stem cell research around the world will continue including ES cell research that is so important for hope for certain conditions.

And to my friends who are scientists and patient advocates, I say don’t give up hope for one minute. Sure, this was a discouraging development and even I myself called it a disaster, which it felt like when I heard the news. But after a few days of discussion within the stem cell field, I am still optimistic. If we learn nothing else from Geron’s decision it is that we have to be more patient than any of us would have wished.

2 Comments


  1. My main reason for posting is to say thank you for this blog and having to courage as a scientist to publish this blog. I have some questions regarding this topic. In terms of spinal cord injury how complex is the cell therapy approach going to be. Somethings, I am aware of is reducing immune response against site of injury, remyelination, axonal guidance across site of injury, and that there might be some other factors. Another question I have is what was the expected profitability if it was successful. Figures on spinal cord injury can be found at http://www.christopherreeve.org under the left side tab of paralysis statistics. I have an approximation of ~80K paralyzed persons from spinal cord injury per year. This is based on 1.24 million people with chronic spinal cord injury and 15.6 year average from injury. Maybe there is a more direct figure out there. It seems as this could be profitable. For example, if each therapy was $50K, then this highly idealized model suggests $4 billion in revenue. However I don’t know about the distribution of the cells, storage, medical reimbursements. There is much more that I would like to know. If getting to clinical trial wasn’t the rate limiting barrier then what is that barrier or the next barrier. What exactly would it take to make the treatment accessible to the average patient, as this seems to be critical in the analysis that the infrastructure for delivery, possibly including training of doctors as well and that 25 million was no where close to what really is needed.


  2. Dr. Knoepfler-
    Please don’t assess my position based on one article. I am an advocate for stem cell treatments and an advocate for hope, not an opponent.

    As for the recent Geron situation, let’s forget about the problems with embryonic stem cells, the tumors, the rejection and the controversy. Which stem cells can treat people now, safely and effectively? Which stem cells have over 2,500 clinical trials (1,900 completed) supporting this premise? Which stem cells have the fewest side effects?

    My TRUE position is and always has been that adult stem cells which work NOW have been under-funded, under-researched and hidden from the American population. People with chronic illnesses are degrading and are dying in the USA while patients around the world are recovering from SCI, ALS, MS, MD, Diabetes, CHF, COPD, etc. I have seen this, with my own eyes and in the data. This is the travesty. That is the only reason I wrote:
    “Screw the Embryos, They’re Irrelevant” – http://repairstemcell.wordpress.com/screw-the-embryos-they%E2%80%99re-irrelevant/

    You work with iPSC? I’m a fan, not an opponent.
    OPRAH, MICHAEL J FOX, DR OZ – STEM CELL DEBATE IS DEAD!
    http://repairstemcell.wordpress.com/2011/10/22/oprah-michael-j-fox-dr-oz-%e2%80%93-stem-cell-debate-is-dead/

    I’m an opponent of hope? I can’t agree. I address the issue of hope in these articles:
    “HOPE FOR DIABETES SUFFERERS”
    http://repairstemcell.wordpress.com/2011/10/27/hope-for-diabetes-sufferers/
    and
    “Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman discuss hope for stem cell patients” http://repairstemcell.wordpress.com/2009/04/11/shawshank-redemption-andy-dufresne-tim-robbins-ellis-boyd-red-redding-morgan-freeman-discuss-hope/

    Wishing you all the best in the holiday season-
    David

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