What You Need to Know About Unproven Stem Cell-based "Treatments"

Stem cell research is an active field with the potential to help identify new therapies that may be able to repair or replace damaged cells or tissues. At this time there are very few conditions for which stem cell-based therapies are proven and widely accepted by the global medical community. These are primarily limited to blood stem cell transplantation to treat diseases of the blood, such as leukemia and sickle cell anemia (learn more at Treating disease. What the science says). Although research is ongoing, stem cell-based treatments for most other conditions are experimental and have not been shown to be safe and effective.  

Before a stem cell therapy should be considered for use, it requires clinical trials (learn more About Clinical Trials) and a rigorous peer review process to show that it is safe and effective. Individuals undergoing unproven treatments are taking on physical and financial risk as with any medical procedure, even if the treatment uses one’s own cells.  

Below, you can find resources to help patients and family members identify unproven stem cell treatments and unfounded claims. These resources also include questions to ask of treatments and treatment centers to identify legitimate therapies from treatments that are not supported by sound scientific research and/or do not have the relevant regulatory approvals.  

The marketing of unproven stem cell treatments raises major ethical and integrity concerns and may jeopardize the safety of patients. The International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) engages in global advocacy efforts to ensure the integrity of stem cell science and its translation to medicine. Read more about the ISSCR’s Public Policy Efforts below and what to do if you have been injured or misled by an unscrupulous stem cell clinic. 

We strongly encourage patients and their families to discuss any treatment they may be considering, including an experimental treatment, with a physician who is familiar with their individual circumstances and able to critically assess the experimental treatment and clinical trial. 

Spotting False Claims About Unproven Stem Cell Treatments

Nine Things to Know About Stem Cell Treatments
Considering a stem cell treatment? Be informed. Start here. 

Stem Cell Treatments: What to Ask
A list of suggested questions for those considering stem cell treatments.  

Truths Around ‘Stem Cell’ Treatments
ISSCR Past-President, Deepak Srivastava outlines the public health crisis of unproven stem cell-based “treatments” and what can be done to protect patients.  

The Ubiquitous Stem Cell Sales Pitch
To understand how clinics present and promote their stem cell-based products, we attended a seminar held at a local hotel in the U.S. Midwest. This blog outlines some tactics we observed that you should be aware of. 

Stem Cell Soup – The Importance of Knowing What Is In It
Many “stem cell” treatments don’t even involve stem cells. Learn more about how the cells used in these treatments are characterized, or not.  

Curbing Unproven Stem Cell-Based “Treatments”, The Stem Cell Report with Martin Pera
In this podcast episode, Drs. Zubin Master, Kirstin Matthews, Mohamed Abou-el-Enein, and Sean Morrison talk about unproven stem cell-based interventions.  

The Daily Trip Podcast
Learn about stem cells and the precautions you should take regarding stem cell treatments from Dr. Julie Perlin of the ISSCR. 

The ISSCR’s Public Policy Efforts

How to Report False Marketing Claims and Adverse Events from Clinics Offering Unapproved Stem Cell “Therapies” 

Injured or Misled by Unscrupulous Stem Cell Clinics? Here’s What You Can Do About It 

If you were harmed by a stem cell “treatment” or encounter clinics offering suspicious stem cell “therapies” that you suspect may not be approved, you can report clinics and practitioners involved to the proper authorities 

ISSCR Informed Consent Standard for Stem Cell-based Interventions
This document outlines a professional standard for the information that needs to be provided to patients to help them make an informed decision if offered stem cell-based interventions outside of a formal clinical trial. 

ISSCR Activity to Prevent the Marketing of Unproven Stem Cell Treatments
Learn about the ISSCR’s policy and advocacy efforts to protect patients and prevent false claims.