November 18, 2017 |
Rice University Paper: End 'Stem Cell Tourism'
November 19, 2015  | 

Houston, TX – The continued marketing and use of experimental stem cell-based interventions inside and outside the United States is problematic and unsustainable, according to a new paper by science policy and bioethics experts at Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy and Wake Forest University. Disillusioned patients, tired of waiting for the cures they were promised, are seeking unproven stem cell-based treatments that are causing more harm than good, said the experts, who argue that public policy is needed to reduce this form of “stem cell tourism.”   

The paper, “Unproven Stem Cell-based Interventions and Achieving a Compromise Policy Among the Multiple Stakeholders,” was co-authored by Kirstin Matthews, a lecturer in natural sciences at Rice and fellow in science and technology policy at the Baker Institute, and Ana Iltis, a professor of philosophy and director of Wake Forest’s Center for Bioethics, Health and Society. It was published online in the journal BMC Medical Ethics.

“The current landscape of stem cell tourism should prompt a re-evaluation of current approaches to study cell-based interventions with respect to the design, initiation and conduct of U.S. clinical trials,” the authors wrote. “Stakeholders, including scientists, clinicians, regulators and patient advocates, need to work together to find a compromise to keep patients in the U.S. and within the clinical-trial process.”

The rise in stem cell tourism is a recent phenomenon, according to the paper. Scientists have long envisioned their stem cell research would lead to cures in the near future. In 2004, patient-advocate groups were major players in helping pass and implement significant public policy and funding initiatives in stem cells and regenerative medicine. In the following years, advocates were also actively engaged in Washington, D.C, encouraging policymakers to broaden embryonic stem cell research funding, which was ultimately passed after President Barack Obama came into office. After waiting more than 10 years, many of these same patients are now approaching clinics around the world that are offering experimental stem cell-based interventions instead of waiting for scientists in the U.S. to complete clinical trials. Continue>

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