Prof. Timothy Caulfield

26
Jun 2014
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stemcelltourism stem cellshorts

Tricky science made simple, Part III

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Back in January, we blogged about the StemCellShorts videos, a series of about-a-minute-long informative videos produced by Ben Paylor, a PhD candidate at the University of British Columbia, and Dr.

Back in January, we blogged about the StemCellShorts videos, a series of about-a-minute-long informative videos produced by Ben Paylor, a PhD candidate at the University of British Columbia, and Dr. Mike Long, a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Toronto.

A brand new video in the excellent series is now available. Narrated by Prof. Timothy Caulfield, a member of our Foundation’s Science Leadership Council, it answers the question “What is stem cell tourism?”

Stem cell tourism is one of the biggest challenges for stem cell community. While great advances have been made in bone marrow stem cell transplants and stem-cell driven skin grafts, most stem cell treatments are still in the research phase. However, the number of clinics offering unproven and unsafe therapies worldwide is growing. (Click here to read our blog entries about stem cell tourism.)

All the videos — including “What is a stem cell?” narrated by Dr. Jim Till, “What are embryonic stem cells?” voiced by Dr. Janet Rossant, and “What are induced pluripotent stem cells?” narrated by Dr. Mick Bathia —  are now available on the Foundation’s You Tube channel. Click here to view them.

Another instalment, covering the topic “What is a cancer stem cell?” and narrated by Dr. John Dick, will be launched later this year. This second set of videos is co-sponsored by the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation and the Stem Cell Network.

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11
Jun 2014
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What’s the ‘real deal’ on stem cells?

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The day before 3,600 scientists, clinicians, educators and industry professionals from around the world gather in Vancouver next week for the International Society of Stem Cell Researchers’ summit, the public will get a chance to hear about the ‘real deal’ on stem cells.…

The day before 3,600 scientists, clinicians, educators and industry professionals from around the world gather in Vancouver next week for the International Society of Stem Cell Researchers’ summit, the public will get a chance to hear about the ‘real deal’ on stem cells.

Moderated by the Vancouver Sun’s Pamela Fayerman, the Tuesday, June 17th symposium focuses on why stem cells, which have been hailed for the past two decades as having the potential to fight so many diseases, have — with some notable exceptions — been slow to deliver.

The panel that includes Prof. Timothy Caulfield, author of The Cure for Everything and member of our Foundation’s Science Leadership Council, and stem cell transplant recipient Jennifer Molson will tackle the question: Why is it taking so long to make these promised therapies a reality? Industry investment expert Gregory Bonfiglio of Proteus Venture Partners and University of British Columbia stem cell researcher Dr. Kelly McNagny will also share their views.

It’s an important question. The translation of stem cell research discoveries into stem cell therapies takes a long time. It includes securing funding, getting regulatory approvals and conducting rigorous — and hugely expensive — clinical trials. In the meantime, unregulated clinics are popping up around the planet, offering “miracle” stem cell cures that have not been proven safe or effective.

The symposium, sponsored by the Stem Cell Network and the Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine, will be held in the OmniMax Theatre at Science World at TELUS World of Science. For more information, click here.

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13
Mar 2014
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unproven stem cell treatments booklet

Unproven stem cell therapies: all you need to know

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Recently we wrote about a workshop on unproven stem cells treatments that featured Prof. Timothy Caulfield, a member of our Foundation’s Science Leadership Council.…

Recently we wrote about a workshop on unproven stem cells treatments that featured Prof. Timothy Caulfield, a member of our Foundation’s Science Leadership Council. Unproven stem cells treatments are scientifically untested, lack regulatory or ethics approval and may lead to serious health consequences.

In order to increase public awareness, the University of Alberta’s Prof. Caulfield and Dr. Zubin Master of Albany Medical College, have developed a booklet called “What you need to know about stem cell therapies.”

The booklet, sponsored by Stem Cell Network, can be found here.

“Most stem cell therapies are still considered research and are a long way from the clinic,” write the authors.

The process of translation from scientific knowledge to the approval of a treatment, or clinical translation, takes several steps. It starts with preclinical research, with scientists using stem cells on animals to show that the treatment is safe and effective.

After a review from independent scientists, or peer review, the research undergoes ethics approval to be tested on humans. With approval, clinical research involving humans, begins, starting at Phase 1 to determine whether the treatment is safe, to Phase 4, which monitors the effectiveness of a treatment and its side effects after it is on the market.

Unproven stem cells therapies have not been properly tested and proven to be safe and effective.

According to Prof. Caulfield and Dr. Master, clinics offering unproven treatments share similar characteristics: They don’t provide scientific evidence of the effectiveness of a treatment and they emphasize its benefits without completely explaining its risks. Instead of scientific publications, they use patient testimonials to show the effectiveness of a therapy. Finally, the costs associated with unproven treatments are often high, while legitimate clinical trials are free.

Patients undergoing unproven stem cell therapies may develop serious health problems, as their condition may worsen, or they may require additional treatments. Undergoing an unproven treatment can also disqualify a patient for enrolment in legitimate stem cell trials.

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04
Feb 2014
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Unproven treatments: a big challenge for the stem cell community

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“Many challenges surround stem cell research, but the number one issue as perceived by stem cell community is the marketing and selling of unproven stem cell therapies,” says Prof.

“Many challenges surround stem cell research, but the number one issue as perceived by stem cell community is the marketing and selling of unproven stem cell therapies,” says Prof. Timothy Caulfied.

A Canada Research Chair in Health Law and Policy at the University of Alberta, Prof. Caulfield addressed the problem at a recent workshop on Stem Cell Therapies: Opportunities for Assuring the Quality and Safety of Unregulated Clinical Offerings, organized by U.S. Institute of Medicine and National Academy of Science.

Many clinics that look perfectly legitimate on the Web, offer stem cell treatments for everything, without any clinical-based evidence.
“Any time there is an exciting scientific development, people use it to profit,” says Prof. Caulfield in the video. “I call it Scienceploitation,” he adds.

The increase in unproven stem cell treatments is a global phenomenon.”The numbers of desperate patients using these clinics worldwide are big,” says Prof. Caulfield, who is a member of Canadian Stem Cell Foundation’s Science Leadership Council. “And the harm is big, too. Health risks for patients, high costs of procedures and undermined public trust challenge the whole field of stem cell research.”

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21
Jan 2014
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policy options timothy caulfield

Do organ donor policies need a rethink?

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Each of us could be a potential organ or tissue donor and save the lives of those in need of a transplant.…

Each of us could be a potential organ or tissue donor and save the lives of those in need of a transplant. For example, stem cells contained in bone marrow could help in treating people with blood disorders.

However, while almost 4,500 Canadians currently are on waiting lists for organ donations, almost one-third will never receive them.

So what will it take to get more potential donors to make the commitment?

Prof. Timothy A. Caulfield, a member of Canadian Stem Cell Foundation’s Science Leadership Council, considers the problem in a recent Policy Options article.

“Our current laws are looking antiquated,” he says.

Prof. Caulfield, Canada Research Chair in Health Law and Policy at the University of Alberta, is studying policy options that could increase the number of donations.

If Canada is falling behind the United States and the European Union, then a “legislative rethinking seems warranted,” he writes.

Prof. Caulfield acknowledges that many approaches to increase donations come with considerable controversy. For example, offering financial incentives for donations can turn the process into a for-profit enterprise, with some people donating their organs only to get a financial award. He cites concerns that poorly a devised incentive system “runs an enormous risk of exploiting the most vulnerable and poorest members of our society.”

But the current “ban everything” approach just isn’t working, he writes.

“We need organ donation legislation that will allow innovative and ethically acceptable strategies to be tested and implemented,” he says. To do that, we need evidence-based answers to questions such as “Will a closely regulated, domestic incentive system necessarily result in exploitation?”

Click here to read the article.

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