The study suggested that the therapy might be safe. Dr. Joanne Kurtzberg, a pediatric hematologist and oncologist at Duke University Medical Center and president of the Cord Blood Association, led the study to see if it worked.
Dr. Kurtzberg has also conducted two subsequent Phase 2 clinical trials – one on the effectiveness of cord blood transfusions in the treatment of autism and one in cerebral palsy. In both cases, the results are encouraging but preliminary. Larger phase 3 studies in more patients would be needed to prove that a treatment is really safe and effective.
“I think some of the companies you are referring to are using and using our studies prematurely,” said Dr. Kurtzberg via private umbilical cord blood banks.
Some private cord blood banks also offer vague regenerative stem cell medicine options for curing heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes and other diseases. None of these therapies passed a phase 2 study or are FDA approved
Morey Kraus, chief scientist at ViaCord, said he understood that more research was needed on umbilical cord blood for use under unapproved conditions, but that even then, parents would have been happy to have the opportunity to bank when the Research has not been successful and try it as therapy.
Not everyone agrees: “The data suggests there might be a little help there, but I don’t find it convincing at all,” said Dr. Steven Joffe, a pediatric oncologist and bioethicist at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. The cost of private banking “would be hard to justify at this point,” he said, unless someone in the family has a known blood disorder that may require a stem cell transplant.
According to Dr. Knoepfler should not regard stem cells from umbilical cord blood as a “panacea” for all diseases. “People are in a desperate situation,” he said, “they are looking for hope, and giving them false hope is definitely a disadvantage.”