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Sunday, October 29, 2006
NewsMax's Misleading Claims on Stem Cells
Topic: Newsmax

Opponents of embryonic stem cell research have latched onto a new scare tactic: tumors!

An Oct. 25 NewsMax article largely regurgitating Rush Limbaugh's take on a political ad featuring parkinson's disease victim Michael J. Fox's support for embryonic stem cell research threw out the tumor claim:

In an Oct. 23 story in Canada's Globe and Mail, researchers at the University of Rochester were said to have encountered what the newspaper called the "two extremes that have met in one dazzling, yet devastating experiment.

 "Researchers there have for the first time essentially cured rats of a Parkinson's-like disease using human embryonic stem cells. But 10 weeks into the trial, they discovered brain tumors had begun to grow in every animal treated.

 "Here we have this method that works so well to reverse the symptoms of Parkinson's," said lead investigator Steven Goldman, "But no matter how you look at it, it's an expanding mass and that's bad news."

Experts say that this has been the result in all cases when embryonic stem cells were used on lab animals. They develop tumors, some cancerous. 

That's a somewhat selective quoting of the Globe and Mail article, and it suggests that because one experiment failed, all research should cease. In fact, the article states that "scientists have always known that any stem cell therapy could result in an uncontrolled growth of cells that could give rise to cancer" -- a far cry from NewsMax's claim that anonymous "experts say" that tumors results in "all cases" -- and noted "the possibility that the years-old and scant stem lines available to government researchers in the United States may also have had tumourigenic properties from the start that skewed the experiment." The article also notes that scientists are now "redoing the experiment" to attempt another method of retarding uncontrolled cell growth.

Michael Reagan, in an Oct. 27 NewsMax column, made a similar claim, adding, "Thus far, that is the sole fruit of ESC research – fatal brain tumors."

A Sept. 26 NewsMax column by Michael Arnold Gluek and Robert J. Cihak -- both members of the conservative Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, as we've noted -- threw out another misleading claim: that "human embryonic stem cells have not cured a single human medical condition. That's as in none, nada, zero; not experimentally, or in controlled clinical trials, or in general medical use." But Gluek and Cihak don't say that this is because embryonic stem cells were not isolated until November 1998 and, thus, relatively little research has been done, while adult stem cell research has had many years of a head start on research. As the International Society for Stem Cell Research states, "Because human embryonic stem cells were isolated relatively recently, and therefore we know less about them, it is currently more difficult to work with human systems than mouse."

The Gluek-Cihak coolumn also calls supporters of embryonic stem cell research "bigots" because they are "loudly intolerant of other beliefs and add injury to insult by extracting our tax money to support their activities." 

Posted by Terry K. at 11:42 AM EDT

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