Stem Cell Treatments Need To Be Based On Good Science

science MSCC.jpg

Professor John Rasko – Clinical Hematologist and head of the Cell and Molecular Therapies at Sydney’s Royal Prince Alfred Hospital – recently published an important analysis of the international stem cell industry.  The analysis highlighted the need for patients to use evidence-based medicine and for doctors to clearly inform patients of treatment options. The study showed that many clinics made implausible and non-scientific claims as to the effectiveness of stem-cell based therapies for many conditions.

The report said that up to 33 per cent of clinics claimed they were conducting clinical trials. 
There is only one clinic in Australia that is conducting Human Research Ethics Committee approved autologous mesenchymal stem cell trials for the treatment of osteoarthritis. That clinic, Melbourne Stem Cell Centre, has two such trials for underway at the moment. The trials, one of which is now full, examine whether clinically harvested and expanded stem cells from a person’s own body are effective in the treatment of joint pain..

Both trials have ethics committee approval from Monash University and La Trobe University respectively. The observations by Professor Rasko and colleagues and published in an internationally-regarded scientific journal reflect the concerns that Melbourne Stem Cell Centre also has regarding stem cell therapy development. Stem cell regenerative techniques have emerging and exciting applications in medicine and Melbourne Stem Cell Centre calls on patients to insist that their doctors remain both scientific and ethical in their approach.

Professor Rasko and his colleagues said in their report that some clinics made ambiguous or vague statements, there was a lack of disclosure and they offered poor patient education – likely resulting in lack of appropriate informed consent.

The report also focused on what was regarded as a lack of regulation under current government legislation. Melbourne Stem Cell Centre’s Dr Julien Freitag said that while patients’ own-stem-cell based therapies are not under the regulation of the Therapeutic Goods Administration in Australia, such therapies are regulated by the requirement of all clinicians to act ethically, to practice evidence-based medicine and to work within their area of knowledge or expertise.  

Dr Freitag said that doctors who practice outside these requirements should be held accountable by their specialist medical college and the Medical Board of Australia.