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Unproven stem cell treatments prompt RANZCO warning

27/06/2018By Matthew Woodley • Staff Journalist
The rise of private stem cell clinics offering unproven therapies has prompted RANZCO and Stem Cells Australia to launch a patient information resource for people considering the controversial treatments for eye conditions.

Stem Cells for Eyesight provides a summary of the joint position statement on the role of stem cells in treating eye disease, and gives patients important new information about emerging treatments. It also warns patients about accessing treatments that have not been shown to work in clinical trials and, cautions against unsubstantiated marketing claims and patient testimonials used to endorse commercial services.


“While they may use the language of science, what’s offered by these clinics is effectively a trade in hope. We need to draw a greater distinction between legitimate stem cell research and commercial exploitation.”
Megan Munsie, Stem Cells Australia

Insight recently reported on a private stem cell clinic offering unproven treatments for the symptoms of dry eye, which used these same marketing techniques.

According to RANZCO and Stem Cells Australia, the development of this information resource was urgently needed due to overseas reports of patients becoming blind following stem cell treatments for age-related macular degeneration. There has also been an increase in the availability and use of unregulated stem cell treatments within Australia.

Deputy director of the UniMelb’s Centre for Stem Cell Systems Associate Professor Megan Munsie said commercial stem cell clinics had been operating outside mainstream medicine for too long, and that their claims were inflated and simplistic.

“While they may use the language of science, what’s offered by these clinics is effectively a trade in hope. We need to draw a greater distinction between legitimate stem cell research and commercial exploitation,” Munsie said.

“Our new resource helps guide patients in their research and hopefully inform discussions with their treating ophthalmologist.”

RANZCO ophthalmologist and stem cell researcher Professor Stephanie Watson added that while the potential treatments for ocular disease were exciting, the research was still in its formative stages.

“We are just beginning to understand what might be achievable and in the future we may have cures for eye conditions that are thought of as incurable today. That is all thanks to the research that is happening now. However, more research is required before we know the full impact of these treatments and how safe they are over the longer term,” Watson said.

“For this reason, we recommend that people only take part in clinical trials that have ethics approval and meet the standards of Australia’s regulatory body, the Therapeutic Goods Administration. Approved clinical trials will be registered on the Australian and New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry and will monitor patients over time to assess the long-term safety and outcomes of treatment.”

More reading:

Stem Cells for Eyesight

RANZCO position statement



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