The 4th Annual International Congress for Regenerative and Cell-Based Medicine was held on Thursday, May 3rd in Hollywood, Florida at the Westin Conference Center. Sponsored by the International Cellular Medicine Society (ICMS), a global non-profit organization dedicated to physician education and patient safety, this unique conference focused on the latest developments in cell-based medicine featuring expert clinicians, many of whom are already using these technologies as part of their everyday practice of medicine. The congress was well-attended by researchers, neurosurgeons, and interventional radiologists from across the US and South America. The few Canadian attendees included Doug Broeska, CEO of CliniCard Research Inc., who as part of a doctoral study is currently participating in collecting data on MS patients who have undergone a combination of neck venoplasty and stem cell transplantation at CCSVI Clinic.
The Congress featured presenters who are currently doing studies on stem cell transplantation for a variety of neurologic diseases including MS and Parkinson’s disease through accredited institutions. Dr. Saud Sidiq, Research Director and Senior Research Scientist at the Multiple Sclerosis Research Center of New York is a leader in intrathecal forms of therapy and presented the early results of the first North American clinical trial using neural progenitor cells for disabled MS patients. His basic science efforts are directed at identifying the initial trigger that leads to MS. Also presenting results on 3 stem cell transplants specifically for MS was Dr. Neil Riordan of the Stem Cell Institute in Panama, in collaboration with UC San Diego, where case reports are being compiled on all patients having undergone autologous stromal vascular fraction therapy for various immunological diseases. In the case of the MS patients in the study, all three have shown dramatic improvement. The work at CCSVI Clinic was brought forward in forum discussion as another clinic where uniquely, venous angioplasty is being performed and post-procedurally, adult autologous stem cells are being transplanted both intravenously and intrathecally into the patient over a two-week period. Multiple case studies are also being compiled on patients under the Clinic’s IRB. Outcomes for MS patients even with high EDS scores have so far been positive and remarkable.
There’s no doubt that positive early study results like these heralding a ‘return to health’ for many patients with diagnoses of progressive, incurable neurologic diseases represents an economic threat to the pharmaceutical industry. Because stem cell research is not supported by the major pharmaceutical companies, stem cell trials in North America have been poorly funded. Additionally, these trials have been small, early stage (safety only), and few and far between. Recently, Geron Corp of Menlo Park, CA, a biotech firm heavily engaged in stem cell research unexpectedly pulled its funding from one of the largest pioneering stem cell trials ever, citing “poor economic conditions”. Of the current state of the research, one of the major presenters featured at the Congress, Todd McAllister, CEO of CytoGraft Tissue Engineering, Inc, suggested “the way it’s going, it will take 30 years to establish enough trial evidence in the US that will lead to stem cell therapies becoming mainstream”.
Fortunately, many other globally-distributed stem cell research projects operate autonomously in clinics all over the world under various sanctions and through a mixture of funding structures. None of them have been large or very visible and most North American neurologists don’t even know of their existence. That scattered and disorganized approach to the research may change in the near-future under a collaborative structure that the ICMS intends to promote to its member clinics for these types of studies. Moreover, the ICMS is now set to become the accrediting body for stem cell therapy world-wide ensuring patient safety by evaluating protocols and maintaining rigorous oversight of clinics and facilities engaged in the safe translation of point-of-care cell-based therapies. To become accredited, clinics will have to undergo site audits as well as an institutional review board evaluation. Additionally, accredited clinics must place patients into the Treatment Registry for long-term outcome tracking. These are still early stages, but given the strong evidence of efficacy presented by researchers at the Congress, this collaboration and comprehensive monitoring may result in recommended treatment protocols using stem cells for diseases like MS and Parkinson’s much sooner than expected.
For more information on the International Cellular Medicine Society visit www.cellmedicinesociety.org