by Steve Thompson
For those whose crusade is to integrate “established” medicine with alternative medicine, to be able to have general practitioners recommend alternative treatments without scruple or legal barrier, the closure of the XCell Center in Germany is a serious setback. The Center was Western Europe and North America’s only stem cell treatment center and much promise was being vested in it. People from all over the world, particularly the United Kingdom, were coming to the center in hopes that stem cells would be the answer for medical problems established medicine couldn’t cure. Great hopes were being invested that not only would such a center be able to be at least an improvement on traditional treatment for these diseases, but if it could establish its credibility, similar centers could be established elsewhere.
Instead the center was closed by the German government under a cloud of tragedy and shame. The cause of stem cells, the chance of getting “advanced” new medical treatments on the market without going through the ponderous clinical trial system has been set back indefinitely. Instead of being the great hope, the center is now a symbol of everything that could be wrong with alternative medicine. Briefly, alternative medicine is called alternative medicine because it hasn’t gone completely through the long clinical trial process and received government approval from such bodies as the FDA and Health Canada. And alternative medicine can include such things as shiatsu, aromatherapy, yoga, pilates, chelation remedy, and almost every type of massage therapy. Some of the practices are controversial and may be quacks, but many more do bring real relief to sufferers and the failure to integrate these disciplines with established medicine is a hindrance to society’s overall health.
Established stem cells centers able to treat “incurable” diseases would be a great step forward for medicine and population health. Instead trust in such centers has taken a sharp drop and all the “do-gooders” will point to the XCell Center to justify the ponderous clinical trial system and the reason to avoid stem cells at all cost. With the end of the XCell Center, all that is left are equally controversial centers in the Ukraine, third world countries like the Dominican Republic, Panama, Mexico, and in the Orient.
How did the XCell Center become so odious? The first thing that is apparent is like all quack hustlers, they tried to be all things to all people. They were going to try to be the one practice that could cure everything, the one magic pill everyone needed to take to be healthy for life. Among the things treated at the center were heart failure, diabetes, multiple scleroses, cerebral palsy, spinal cord injuries, and other incurable diseases, and not limited to age, sex, or any other restriction. It was after the center injected stem cells into the brain of an 18 month Romanian baby that subsequently died that the German authorities moved in and closed the center. Instead of establishing itself as a real cure for one or two serious medical problems and growing from that base, the center recklessly claimed they could cure almost anything and that led to tragedy.
Other treatments have made similar multiple-disease claims. The chelation remedy also claims it can improve the condition of autistic people when their passageways are cleared of plaque. That hurts its chances of getting approved and getting to the market quickly where it is desperately needed by heart and stroke victims. Trying to prove it can do too much means that during the clinical trial stage, which the chelation remedy has been in, for over eight years, that more tests and evaluations are needed to be conducted before the product can be recognized. So while a real benefit against coronary heart disease (heart attacks and strokes) could be realized quickly, the remedy is stuck in the clinical trial phase trying to prove it can cure other things as well. Better to get established against one serious disease and start making a real impact and grow from there, instead of trying to prove it can do everything at once.
The number of diseases that were being treated at the XCell Center is laughable. But that is not the only reason for the XCell Center’s bad reputation. Apparently records were not being accurately kept to substantiate its claims. No published material has been issued demonstrating the center’s achievements. This is not surprising. With the center trying to cure too many things, instead of focusing on being good on one or two problems, no credibility was established. Who knows if the patients were cured or improved? Obviously if there were any notable failures, the center did not want them publicized. Since nothing was published, the center was starting to be pictured, particularly in the United Kingdom, not as a place of hope, but as an institution that preyed on vulnerable patients. It doesn’t help that the “miraculous” healing power of stem cells entitled prices around the $30,000 mark.
This debacle has left the future of stem cells lost in a distant future. All the clinical trials involving stem cells and heart failure in North America have been withdrawn. The real damage done is to people’s hopes in stem cells and maybe to alternative medicine in general. This could have been a great chance to give desperate people an alternative choice, to take a giant leap into futuristic medicine right now, a chance to circumvent the ponderous clinical trial system. Had at least one disease been treated successfully, and fully documented, that alone would have justified the center and led to other stem cell centers being set up around the globe, much like the chelation clinics. That hope is gone, at least for the present.
It didn’t have to be that way. In Toronto, the Shouldice Clinic has successfully treated hernias (and hernias alone) for decades. Even though they still haven’t been granted official status, chelation clinics and the oral chelation remedy are able to help people with coronary heart disease. But at the XCell Center, nobody knows what diseases were successfully treated by stem cells and which diseases were failures. The only truth that remains is that people suffering from these terrible diseases will continue to suffer and die, waiting for cures to pass through the time-consuming clinical trial system, that is set up to help those in the future, but is of no help to those who need a hand right now.