Saturday, July 31, 2010

Geron's Clinical Trial: Risk, Front-loading and Costs

The Vatican doesn't particularly care for the idea. "Unacceptable" was the word it used.

Over at Bioworld Today, it was "the dawn of a new era."

A reader of the New York Times warned of the danger of "front-loaded" arguments that can be detrimental to stem cell research.

What they were talking about is Geron and its re-vitalized clinical trial of an hESC therapy for spinal injuries. The FDA late this week lifted its hold on the effort. Andy Pollack of the New York Times said "cysts were discovered in some mice injected with the cells. Geron had to do another mouse study and develop better ways to check the purity of its cells."

Pollack wrote,
"Years of further testing will be required before the therapy would be proven and ready for widespread use, assuming it works."
Among the readers of Pollack's story was a person from Seattle who said,
"As in the case of most things in science, we just do not know enough to say which scientific modalities will bear fruit first if at all and when and hence multi-pronged approaches are needed. And the field of stem cell biology painfully realized a few years ago, some of these discoveries are fads that cannot be replicated by others ( I am referring to Catherine Verfaillie's assertion that adult stem cells can do most of what embryonic stem cells can do, a claim that has since been refuted/ withdrawn or generally agreed to be highly exaggerated at best). The damage done to stem cell biology from that fiasco is still evident. Hence most scientists would agree that front-loaded arguments for and against particular technologies are dangerous and can be detrimental to general scientific progress."
(Verfaillie is a CIRM grant reviewer.)
Over at UC Davis, stem cell researcher Paul Knoepfler, writing on his blog, called it a “milestone,” but noted that while the potential is high, the risk is very high as well.

Donna Young, Washington editor of Bioworld Today carried a detailed account concerning the trial. Her story began,

"The FDA's blessing Friday of the world's first clinical trial of a human embryonic stem cell (hESC) therapy has not only launched what may be 'the dawn of a new era' for medical treatment, but if successful, the therapies could alleviate much of the burdensome costs plaguing the nation's health care system, insisted Geron Corp. CEO Thomas Okarma."

Most of the news reports did not mention the seminal role of UC Irvine in the research leading to the clinical trial. You can find more details about that here on the Califoria Stem Cell Report.

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