Sue DeLisle

16
Mar 2017
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Eye Disease

Unproven stem cell treatment leaves three women blind

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Three women who believed they were participating in a clinical trial either lost all or most of their vision after being injected with stem cells derived from their own fat in a Florida clinic. …

Three women who believed they were participating in a clinical trial either lost all or most of their vision after being injected with stem cells derived from their own fat in a Florida clinic.  The case points to the dangers of unproven treatments offered by private clinics.

Within days of treatment the women, who all suffered from macular degeneration, began to experience severe side effects including bleeding in the eye, detached retinas and vision loss as reported in a study released week in The New England Journal of Medicine.   Expert ophthalmologists tried to reverse the damage but were unable.

“There’s a lot of hope for stem cells, and these types of clinics appeal to patients desperate for care who hope that stem cells are going to be the answer, but in this case these women participated in a clinical enterprise that was off-the-charts dangerous”  said Dr. Thomas Alibini, a lead author of the study, in a press release.

This isn’t the first time there have been adverse reactions to unproven treatments offered at clinics, many using stem cells drawn from the patient’s own fat, and we’ve written about it several times on this blog warning patients to be cautious of claims that appear too good to be true.

So how can patients protect themselves?  The California Institute of Regenerative Medicine offers this advice:

  • There is almost no evidence that the fat/blood stem cell combination the clinic used could help repair the photoreceptor cells in the eye that are attacked in macular degeneration.
  • The clinic charged the women $5,000 for the procedure. Usually in Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved trials the clinical trial sponsor will cover the cost of the therapy being tested.
  • Both eyes were injected at the same time.  Most clinical trials would only treat one eye at a time and allow up to 30 days between patients to ensure the approach was safe.
  • Even though the treatment was listed on the clinicaltrials.gov website, there is no evidence that this was part of a clinical trial, and certainly not one approved by the FDA.

Most importantly, patients should check with their doctor before considering any medical treatment or participating in any clinical trial.  You can also find great information for patients considering stem cell treatments here that has been produced by the International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR).

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15
Dec 2016
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dr-jean-wang

New test helps tailor treatments for high-risk leukemia patients

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Researchers at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto have developed a test to predict responses to standard treatments in patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) — one of the most deadly and common types of adult leukemia.…

Researchers at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto have developed a test to predict responses to standard treatments in patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) — one of the most deadly and common types of adult leukemia.

The test is designed to be administered in tandem with diagnosis so that once the marker is identified, an individual treatment plan can be prepared.

“Clinicians will now have a tool that they can use upfront to tailor treatment to risk in AML,” says Dr. Jean Wang, Affiliate Scientist at the Princess Margaret and Co-Principle Investigator of the study in a press release from the University Health Network.

The marker identifies a 17-gene signature derived from leukemia stem cells that are resistant to standard chemotherapy and cause relapse for patients. Based on a rigorous statistical approach, a “stemness score” measures a patient’s probability for chemo resistant cells. With this knowledge, clinicians will be able to enroll high-risk patients in clinical trials to test alternative therapies to chemotherapy alone.

The test not only provides a fast turnaround time for patients as they decide the best course of care, it also represents the first time a stem cell-based biomarker has been developed in this way for human cancer.

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14
Nov 2016
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scc-ri-logo

McMaster’s research centre marks decade with new site/logo

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After a decade of innovation, McMaster’s Stem Cell and Cancer Research Institute (SCC-RI) has launched a new website to draw attention to research advances and share links to resources for patients, care givers and future scientists. …

After a decade of innovation, McMaster’s Stem Cell and Cancer Research Institute (SCC-RI) has launched a new website to draw attention to research advances and share links to resources for patients, care givers and future scientists.  The SCC-RI’s new logo, a stylized hand, represents the numerous people involved in translating research into new therapeutic options for patients.

The SCC-RI was established in 2006 — the same year Dr. Shinya Yamanaka established his game-changing protocol to turn adult skin stem cells back to an embryonic stem cell-like state of pluripotency — to drive new therapies to the clinic. Since the beginning, SCC-RI has focused its research on improving bone marrow and cord blood transplants, finding cell-based solutions to cancer and identifying and targeting the cells responsible for neural disorders such as autism.

“Our commitment to working with human cells and our established drug discovery capabilities make this the best place for moving forward to patient-specific drug discovery,” said Dr. Karun Singh, Principal Investigator at SCC-RI in a recent blog post.

Dr. Singh recently led a team that discovered a gene mutation that causes autism spectrum disorders (ASD).  Having identified the genetic glitch, researchers can now focus their efforts on finding a way to improve the brain connections that are causing symptoms of ASD.

The SCC-RI team has developed a robotic system to test a library of currently available drugs on a variety of diseased cells before starting human trials. In a landmark study, Dr. Mick Bhatia, SCC-RI Director and Senior Scientist, found the antipsychotic drug, thioridazine, kills cancer stem cells responsible for initiating leukemia without harming normal stem cells. A  Phase I clinical trial is now underway.

 

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08
Nov 2016
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allen-eaves

Allen Eaves wins Entrepreneur of the Year Pacific Region

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Dr. Allen Eaves, President and CEO of STEMCELL Technologies Inc., has been awarded Entrepreneur of the Year Pacific Winner by Ernst and Young Canada.…

Dr. Allen Eaves, President and CEO of STEMCELL Technologies Inc., has been awarded Entrepreneur of the Year Pacific Winner by Ernst and Young Canada.

The theme for the 2016 awards is recognizing accelerators — those entrepreneurs who “accelerate all of us by bringing us new products and services and by driving our economy” explains Lui Pettrollini, Entrepreneur of the Year Pacific Program Director, in an article carried in the Globe & Mail’s Report On Business Magazine.

Dr. Eaves founded STEMCELL in 1993 to support his own research as the head of the BC Cancer Agency’s Terry Fox Laboratory in Vancouver. Unable to source what he needed to support his research, Dr. Eaves began making media for growing blood-forming stem cells. Today, STEMCELL Technologies offers more than 2,000 cell biology tools to researchers in over 80 countries. It is Canada’s largest biotech company with 850 employees and $150 million in annual sales.

“I run my company like a graduate training program,” Dr. Eaves said in the ROB Magazine piece. “Scientists have a lot of freedom in deciding what they can work on and that inspires them to be creative and think clever thoughts.”

Dr. Eaves has also developed a group of companies including STEMSOFT Software Inc., that makes software for managing data in bone marrow centres, cord blood banks, cellular therapy companies as well as tumour and tissue repositories. He also founded Malachite Management Inc., which provides association management, conference management, fundraising and strategic planning to medical and scientific organizations.

Dr. Eaves is a major supporter of the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation as both a member of the Board of Directors and a founding Till & McCulloch Leadership Circle member.

Dr. Eaves’ accomplishments will be celebrated along with other regional winners on November 22nd at the EY National Awards Gala in Toronto.

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21
Oct 2016
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TMM15

Trainees meet with top researchers at the T&M conference

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Billed as “Canada’s premier stem cell research event” the Till & McCulloch Meetings provide an excellent opportunity for young scientists to discuss their work with sector leaders and talk about how they can play a role in advancing regenerative medicine.…

Billed as “Canada’s premier stem cell research event” the Till & McCulloch Meetings provide an excellent opportunity for young scientists to discuss their work with sector leaders and talk about how they can play a role in advancing regenerative medicine.

Named after Drs. James Till and Ernest McCulloch, who discovered stem cells in 1961, the annual conference attracts hundreds of participants from across Canada and all over the world. The meetings, which begin Monday and run through Wednesday in Whistler, BC, foster new collaborations and nurture Canadian leadership and innovation.

Since the conference was first organized in 2001, much effort has been made to support young scientists via networking sessions, workshops and presentations. Top trainees are acknowledged with awards for their poster submissions, presentations and research efforts

Recognizing the importance of the trainee experience in Canada, a special session will be held to develop programs for young investigators. Participants will be asked to recommend the types of workshops and skills development best suited to support trainees and will participate in organizing them. Previous sessions have included workshops in career development, grant review and journal writing and ethics.

For more information on the Till & McCulloch Meetings 2016 click here. 

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20
Oct 2016
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Celebrating the 55th anniversary of one of Canada’s greatest medical discoveries

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Fifty-five years ago, Drs. James Till and Ernest McCulloch identified stem cells and provided the theoretical underpinning for bone marrow transplant procedures that have saved the lives of countless leukemia patients.…

Fifty-five years ago, Drs. James Till and Ernest McCulloch identified stem cells and provided the theoretical underpinning for bone marrow transplant procedures that have saved the lives of countless leukemia patients. It also opened up the field of stem cell science.

To commemorate the breakthrough, which ranks as one of Canada’s greatest medical discoveries, Science World at TELUS World of Science in Vancouver will unveil a bronze portrait of Drs. Till and McCulloch on Sunday.

“It’s impossible to overstate the impact of Dr. Till and Dr. McCulloch’s discovery and their long-time collaboration,” says, Dr. Allen Eaves, President & CEO of STEMCELL Technologies Inc. that commissioned the work of art. “Their work changed the course of cancer research and paved the way for what we now call regenerative medicine.”

Both Dr. Eaves, who co-founded the Terry Fox Laboratory with the BC Cancer Agency, and his wife, prominent cancer researcher Dr. Connie Eaves, were greatly influenced by Drs. Till and McCulloch during their time at the Ontario Cancer Institute in Toronto. Connie was a post-doctoral fellow who worked closely with them and Allen used their methodology in his own cancer research, which led him to set up the first bone marrow transplantation program in Western Canada.

The sculpture was created by renowned artist Ruth Abernethy, whose public portraits in bronze have celebrated the achievements of several prominent Canadians. She is probably best known for her depiction of Glenn Gould sitting on a bench at CBC in Toronto and Oscar Peterson tinkling a piano outside the National Arts Centre in Ottawa. She will attend the unveiling Sunday to talk about her work and sign copies of Life and Bronze: a Sculptor’s Journal.

The accomplishments of Drs. Till and McCulloch are also celebrated in the book Dreams & Due Diligence: Till and McCulloch’s Stem Cell Discovery and Legacy. Author Joe Sornberger will be at the unveiling Sunday to sign copies of his book.  The book is available for purchase on our website by clicking on this link.

The public is welcome to attend the unveiling at Science World at 1455 Quebec Street on Sunday at 1 p.m. Next spring, a sister bronze portrait will be installed at the MaRS Building in downtown Toronto.

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04
Jul 2016
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hope and hype

Will stem cells repair damaged brains?

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Is it possible that stem cells will some day repair brain tissue damaged by tumours, epilepsy or injuries?

The Ontario Institute of Regenerative Medicine and the Ontario Brain Institute are hosting a free public event Tuesday, July 12 to shed light on possibilities, provide information on stem cell research and discuss realistically what the future holds. …

Is it possible that stem cells will some day repair brain tissue damaged by tumours, epilepsy or injuries?

The Ontario Institute of Regenerative Medicine and the Ontario Brain Institute are hosting a free public event Tuesday, July 12 to shed light on possibilities, provide information on stem cell research and discuss realistically what the future holds. It begins at  6:30 p.m. at the Toronto Reference Library and features  neuroscientist/researcher Dr. Cindi Morshead of the University of Toronto and neurosurgeon/researcher Dr. Michael Fehlings of University Health Network.

This is an area where Canadian researchers excel: neural stem cells were discovered in Canada by Dr. Sam Weiss at the University of Calgary.  Research into the use of stem cells to regenerate damaged brain cells is in the early stages, but has many potential applications for neurological diseases and damage including stroke and spinal cord repair.

Admission is free but space is limited. For more information, and to register click here.

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23
Jun 2016
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Allen Eaves

Allen Eaves receives Order of BC

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Dr. Allen Eaves, a member of the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation’s Board of Directors and a founding Till & McCulloch Leadership Circle member, is being appointed to the Order of British Columbia — the province’s highest form of recognition.…

Dr. Allen Eaves, a member of the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation’s Board of Directors and a founding Till & McCulloch Leadership Circle member, is being appointed to the Order of British Columbia — the province’s highest form of recognition.

An internationally respected leukemia researcher and clinician, Dr. Eaves is the founder and owner of Vancouver’s STEMCELL Technologies Inc., Canada’s largest biotech company. He co-founded the Terry Fox Laboratory and served as its director for 25 years as well as heading the BC Cancer Agency for 18 years, developing one of the first bone marrow transplant programs in the world.

Called the “cell-made man” by BC media, Dr.  Eaves  began STEMCELL in 1993 with a staff of eight.  He now employs more than 800 people. STEMCELL develops specialty cell culture media, cell separation products and ancillary reagents for life science research and delivers them to scientists around the world. In 2015 STEMCELL was named Life Sciences Company of the Year by LifeSciences BC.

Dr. Eaves has a strong incentive to continue his efforts, telling BCBusiness in 2013 that “I want t to cure cancer. That’s the motivation,” he said. “It’s all about curing some of these diseases, wiping them off the face of the earth.”

The investiture will take place July 26 in Victoria. To read more about Dr. Eaves, click here.

 

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