Today the International Society for Stem Cell Research, or ISSCR, announced that it has launched a website dedicated to helping patients, families and doctors understand more about stem cell treatments and to identify clinics promoting unproven therapies. The intent, says Stanford stem cell biologist and ISSCR president Irving Weissman, MD, is to protect patients whose desperate medical situations may have them grasping at straws proffered by unscrupulous practitioners:
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.
In addition to a primer on the basic biology of stem cells, the website offers a list of tools for patients to use to evaluate potential clinics and treatments. Visitors to the site can also submit a specific clinic or advertised treatment for review by the ISSCR. Eventually the website will offer a list of clinics that follow specific safeguards including the involvement of a medical ethics committee to protect patients' rights and oversight by an appropriate regulatory agency such as the Food and Drug Administration or the European Medicines Agency. Says Patrick Taylor, JD, Chair of the ISSCR Task Force on Unproven Stem Cell Treatments:
We want patients to feel they have access to critical information they might otherwise not have, so they can make the best decision for their individual situation. The key to ensuring that treatments are safe and effective is a well-established path from basic research to clinical care, through carefully constructed studies and independent review. The criteria selected by the task force are simple to apply, but of extraordinary power in promoting progress while protecting patients.