CNN Special Research Report- US Stem Cell Doctor Helping Heart and Lung Disease Patients in Dominican Republic

On a special CNN research report, a Florida doctor is now treating heart disease and lung disease patients with their own Adult Stem Cells in the Dominican Republic. The story features a lung patient who is now off oxygen and her amazed doctor who declares “it wasn’t a placebo effect.” See the CNN story here at Stem Cell Research blog

This should be front-page news. But as usual it makes little notice.

This did receive notice; click on the CNN link on the linked page. The problem is, this treatment seems pretty bogus. From the linked page: The chief medical officer of the American Lung Association, Dr. Norman Edelman, said he does not doubt the sincerity of patients who believe they have been helped by stem cell therapy. But he added, “There’s an enormous placebo effect in almost all of these cases.” And the report of the treated patient that she was improved “by the next morning” to me certainly argues for a placebo affect - if the action of stem cells is supposedly to integrate into diseased tissue and slowly divide and differentiate into a healthy, undiseased organ, this is something that would not happen overnight. From reviewing www.pubmed.org there is research into the use of stem cells in COPD which is promising, but certainly much more work is needed before such treatment can responsibly be promoted as a valid treatment option. Plus, the Florida doctor offering this treatment (in a third world country) owns the company that offers this stem cells service, charging $64,000 per treatment; draw your own conclusions.

First, from the same article on CNN, we hear from the woman’s doctor as well, here is what he said in that same CNN article:

McKean’s family physician, Dr. Robert Folsom, confirmed to CNN that she had been suffering for many years from an advanced state of COPD, an incurable lung disease. Folsom told CNN he was “quite incredulous” after seeing her condition improve.

Folsom, who said he has been McKean’s family physician for many years, disputed any suggestion that her apparent recovery stemmed from a “placebo effect” — an improvement sometimes seen in patients who are given an inert substance in clinical trials.

“I know about the placebo effect, and her improvement does not seem to be a result of that,” he said.

You can draw your own conclusions from either her doctor who has followed her closely or the head of the some association trying to secure his next grant.

Also, from a previous TV interview (since removed), we get this- see, it seems before she was on oxygen 24/7 and now is off it— if a placebo effect, then an amazing one. You can draw your own conclusions—

**Host: So you had the procedure done and the procedure was done in November, so how long was it before you had positive effects.

Barbara: I noticed positive effects right away, I really did. I had a feeling of well being the very next day. And then 2 days before Christmas on December 23rd it was a defining moment, I woke up and told my husband and said “I don’t need the oxygen!”

Host: WOW! So you were on it 24/7 and now you are not on it?

Barbara: Yes, I am not on it at all. It was reduced to 2 Liters and then completely off.**

WOW! How exciting. I really don’t think it will be long before these stories really start coming out.

Thank you for sharing.

Placebos are amazing things, sir; you need to realize that. Modern medical therapeutic research is based on the randomized, controlled trial - a group of patients with disease X (the larger, the better) are randomly (and, ideally, blindly) divided into those who receive treatment Y and placebo Z; if analysis shows that the treated group received benefit to a statistically significant degree above those who received the benefit of the placebo, then the study can be taken as evidence in favor of the treatment. Any study less than that is suspicious at best and worthless at worst; the kind of study you present is virtually meaningless because of the power of placebo (yes, even in COPD). If the patient you presented had paid $64,000 for a bottle of snake oil that she was convinced would rid her of her COPD, then she might similarly claim (and really, herself, believe) that she was improved with the snake oil, even the next morning.

And your claim that the skepticisim of the head of the American Lung Association is due to his desire “to secure his next grant” doesn’t make sense. How would this lady’s case prevent him (or anyone) from securing a grant? If anything, if her case had any bona fide merit, researchers would be MORE LIKELY to look for and receive grant money to investigate such avenues of research, using her case to justify that line of work. I don’t think the head of the ALA was being selfish; rather, I think he was doing the responsible thing and not hyping an unproven and expensive “treatment.”

As I have said, I certainly do think that stem cell research is very promising for many different medical problems. However, I think much more research needs to be done before its use can be responsibly promoted for things like COPD (or cerebral palsy or ALS or whatever else you have mentioned before).

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