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Thursday, November 8 • 10:30am - 12:00pm
(90 min) Fake News, Fake Therapies: Upping the Ante in the Fight Against Unproven Stem Cell Therapies in Canada / Fausses nouvelles, faux traitements : soulever la barre dans la lutte contre les traitements à base de cellules souches non éprouvés au Canad

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Organized by: Stem Cell Network, Lisa Willemse

Stem cell research is an exciting field of science and holds much promise for the treatment of chronic illnesses and diseases. However, stem cell research is complex and there is much to learn before stem cell-based treatments will be ready for routine clinical use. Today, there are very few stem cell therapies offered by medical professionals as the standard care of practice. Despite this, private clinics worldwide – and increasingly here in Canada – market stem cell-based therapies to people who are vulnerable and seeking relief for a variety of conditions, from arthritis to stroke.  Regulatory loopholes have allowed these clinics to expand in many jurisdictions.  Recent studies show that the global market for unproven therapies is $2.4B, with 60,000 patients purchasing treatments each year. Nearly 800 clinics are operating in the United States alone, it is unclear how many are operating in Canada.

These treatments come with high financial costs, little to no medical follow-up, and the risk of adverse outcomes. None have been proven to be effective through clinical trials, the medical gold standard required to determine both safety and efficacy. Nor do these clinics publish their methods or outcomes in peer-reviewed journals, relying instead on anecdotal evidence and patient testimonials to support their claims. By preying upon the hopes of desperate patients, unregulated stem cell clinics are making very tidy profits.

Led by the Stem Cell Network, the stem cell research community has been working nationally and alongside international partners to better understand the issue and provide guidance that fit social, legal and political frameworks. With limited resources dedicated to the massive effort required to effectively debunk existing myths and communicate the risks to the public, scientists are facing a losing battle. Action is needed and Canada is well positioned to become a leader for the world in responding to this growing industry and its unethical practices.  However, to meet the challenge head-on a coordinated effort is required; one that sees the science community, patient groups, health care providers, media and government all playing their respective part to increase awareness of fake or risky therapies.
With reference to a paper detailing the outcomes of a 2017 workshop (publication expected summer/fall 2018), this panel will explore the current state of the issue in Canada and provide insights on what they believe is needed to mitigate the proliferation of a new market that is offering unproven and risky treatments to the general public.

avatar for Harold Atkins

Harold Atkins

Physician, Ottawa Hospital Blood and Marrow Transplant Program
Harold Atkins MD is a physician of the Ottawa Hospital Blood and Marrow Transplant Program, an Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Ottawa, a scientist in the Center for Innovative Cancer Research and the medical director of the Regenerative Medicine Program at the... Read More →
avatar for Torah Kachur

Torah Kachur

Columnist, CBC Radio One
Torah Kachur is the syndicated science columnist for more than 20 local afternoon shows on CBC Radio One and is a Sessional Lecturer in Cell Biology and Genetics at the University of Alberta. She has a range of science communication experience including host of a 2014 national summer... Read More →
avatar for Jennifer Molson

Jennifer Molson

Research Assistant, Ages Cancer Assessment Clinic, Ottawa Hospital
Jennifer Molson was diagnosed with Relapsing Remitting Multiple Sclerosis at the age of 21 in 1996.  Six years later, after multiple failed therapies, she took part in a stem cell clinical trial at the Ottawa Hospital funded by the MS Society Scientific Research Foundation. The procedure... Read More →
avatar for Cate Murray

Cate Murray

Executive Director & COO, Stem Cell Network
Cate Murray assumed the role of Executive Director & COO of the Stem Cell Network in 2017. She has over two decades of experience working in public policy, strategic communications, and government relations. Cate has a proven track record of helping national research organizations... Read More →
avatar for Amy Zarzeczny

Amy Zarzeczny

Associate Professor and Graduate Chair, Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy, University of Regina
Amy Zarzeczny is an Associate Professor, Graduate Chair, and the Centre for the Study of Science and Innovation Policy (CSIP) Health Innovation Research Cluster Lead with the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy, University of Regina campus. After completing law school... Read More →

Thursday November 8, 2018 10:30am - 12:00pm EST
Delta Hotel - Richelieu