Stem cell therapies have been in the news recently. Whether it’s documentaries like Stem Cell Highway or the sad news of Australian “stem cell tourists” dying overseas, stem cell therapies are gaining a higher profile.
The ABC News website has a story (originally aired on The 7.30 Report) covering not only the Brisbane mother who recently died undergoing treatment in Russia, but highlighting just how prevalent “stem cell scammers” really are.
The article quotes Professor Irving Weissman, a stem cell pioneer who discovered human blood stem cells in 1992 and Associate Professor Megan Munsie, a stem cell biologist at the University of Melbourne – both expressing concern over unproven and expensive stem cell “therapies”.
Munsie warns that “we have to be very aware of Dr Google.” Weissman states that when he googled “stem cell therapy” the first 200 results were fraudulent therapies with “No science behind them. No published work.”
From the article:
Irving Weissman is a professor at Stanford University in California, who discovered human blood stem cells in 1992 and is a pioneer in the field.
He warned of the dangers of the quackery that he believed invaded stem cell therapy more than almost any other area of medicine.
“I googled ‘stem cell therapy’ and the first 200 [results] I saw were fraudulent therapies,” he said.
“No science behind them. No published work.
But he said he understands why desperate patients might be taken in.
“It’s hard to try and convince anybody with an incurable disease that they shouldn’t try anything possible,” Professor Weissman told 7.30.
“But the answer is there are people out there – and I don’t understand their own morality – who look at you as a way to make an awful lot of money.”
Professor Munsie has now dedicated her work to exposing the scams which see patients billed up to $70,000 for ineffective therapy.
“I think that’s what I object most about, the commercialisation of a lot of these treatments,” she said.
“The selling of hope and exploiting people who really don’t think they have many other choices.”
Professor Munsie also issued a warning about the world of internet health, where things were not always as they seem.
“We have to be very aware of Dr Google,” she said.
“We also have to be very aware of patient testimonials.
“A lot of these websites, and especially ones from overseas, do use testimonials from patients who’ve had treatment. It’s terrific if they feel they’ve had benefit, but what we don’t know is if it’s been for a long time.
“We don’t know whether they still really feel the same way.
“Are they even being monitored? A lot of these clinics don’t even monitor patients in the long term.”
For people with a poor long-term prognosis a little hope can be dangerous, and it’s sickening that so many stem cell scammers, operating both here and abroad, will exploit that hope. For anyone contemplating such therapies we strongly urge Caveat Emptor…
Click here to watch the original 7.30 Report segment.