60 Minutes Stem Cell Investigation Questioned


Pioneer Founding member
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Open Letter to Producers of 60 Minutes


We must commend you on an informative piece exposing what appeared to be one charlatan taking advantage of despaired patients. Disturbingly, the same unethical practice that the conman in the show was accused of, eg selling unproven medicine to despaired families, is the same practice that Dr. Kurtzberg appears to have been engaging in: According to two independent news sources, the Batavia Republic http://www.mysuburbanlife.com/batavia/news/x207273054, and the LA Times http://articles.latimes.com/2009/feb...ci-cordblood21, cerebral palsy patients were charged by Dr. Kurtzberg $10,000 and $15,000, respectively for the 20 minute procedure of injecting them with cord blood stem cells. Most disturbingly, both of these articles were from before June 2010, which is the date that Dr. Kurtzberg reported to the Federal Clinical Trial Registry that she initiated a formal clinical trial http://www.clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT01147653 on cord blood stem cells for cerebral palsy.

Therefore, we are having problems understanding Dr. Kurtzberg’s position. On the one hand in the interview it is stated that “Dr. Kurtzberg told us there's no evidence yet that stem cells can treat cerebral palsy”, and said “I personally think we're 10 years away from seeing real cell therapies that are working and are safe, but I do believe it will come.” But on the other hand, she is making families pay out of pocket for their children to be treated with “unproven therapies”, and accepting a $10.2 million donation from the Robertson Foundation http://www.dukehealth.org/health_lib...therapy_center to support her efforts in cord blood stem cells.

If there really is “no evidence yet that stem cells can treat cerebral palsy”, then should she not perform animal studies first before experimenting on little children? To our knowledge, the first animal studies using stem cell based approaches for cerebral palsy were from Indiana University in 2009 by Dr. Keith March’s group http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=19023032. What gave Dr. Kurtzberg the right to begin human experiments before animal experiments were completed? What scientific training does a hematologist/oncologist have to justify her to treat a neurological disease?

We respectfully seek to Producers of the 60 Minutes Show to make a statement disclosing that the clinical trials performed by Dr. Kurtzberg are based on unproven therapies and requesting her not to charge funds for patients treated by her. Without these disclosures, we feel that Dr. Kurtzberg is a highly refined equivalent of the conman on which the show was based on.