Press Releases

Press Release: NHMRC places unproven stem cell treatments on the agenda for Australian doctors and patients

19 December 2013


Concerned about Australians pursuing unproven and potentially risky stem cell treatments, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has released new resources for Australian medical practitioners and patients. These helpful guides raise important considerations for anyone contemplating stem cell-based treatment yet are uncertain where to get more information and advice.

The growing availability of unproven stem cell treatments continues to concern the medical and scientific communities in Australia and overseas. Though stem cell research offers great promise for the treatment and repair of numerous injuries and diseases, reports in the media and the Internet typically imply that treatments are more advanced and reliable than is medically confirmed.

In reality, proven stem cell treatments must undergo rigorous approval and are currently limited to certain cancers, blood and autoimmune diseases, burns and repair of the cornea of the eye. All other treatments are in the development phase or entering clinical trials and are yet to be demonstrated as both safe and effective.

The newly released NHMRC resources - Stem Cell Treatments - A Quick Guide for Medical Practitioners and Stem Cell Treatments - Frequently Asked Questions - are designed to help patients make a well-informed choice regarding their treatment options and to guide and assist discussion with their GP. Importantly, these documents raise awareness about doctors in Australia selling experimental treatments using the patient’s own cells and encourages those who have concerns to report them to the Australian Health Practitioners Regulatory Agency, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, or their relevant state or territory fair trading agencies.

Professor Martin Pera, Chair of Stem Cell Science at The University of Melbourne and Program Leader of the Stem Cells Australia initiative commented, “We welcome the NHMRC’s effort to raise awareness and discussion about the importance of taking a cautionary approach when it comes to stem cell treatments. We believe that the NHMRC documents make a valuable and timely contribution to addressing this important issue.”

The NHMRC documents draws on The Australian Stem Cell Handbook published earlier this year by the National Stem Cell Foundation of Australia and Stem Cells Australia and reflect comments made by Stem Cells Australia during the public consultation about the draft NHMRC documents. 

Today's announcement follows yesterday's ABC News story - Questions raised about safety of experimental stem cell therapies in Australia.

Media:     Megan Munsie (0417 585 621 or megan.munsie@unimelb.edu.au)

Stem Cells Australia is an Australian Research Council funded Special Research Initiative, bringing together Australia’s premier life scientists to address the big questions in stem cell science. Stem Cells Australia has been established by the University of Melbourne, University of Queensland, Monash University, University of NSW, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute for Medical Research, Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute, The Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health and CSIRO. www.stemcellsaustralia.edu.au