We frequently are asked about stem cell transplant for the treatment of COPD. Unfortunately there are no scientific studies published in peer reviewed journals (the ones that matter) that support the use stem cell therapy for lung disease. There is ongoing research in this potential treatment but based on current scientific information it cannot be recommended. There are many websites touting Stem cell Therapy for COPD. They list “testimonials” to support their claims but have no scientific backing. These purported treatments are expensive often costing tens of thousands of dollars.
From the American Lung Association
The use of stem cells for treating lung diseases has great appeal. As we learn more about the therapeutic potential of stem cells and other cell therapies in clinical trials of non-lung diseases, we hope to be able to move toward further consideration of these approaches in lung diseases.
However, as yet, there is very little known about the short and long term effects of administering any type of stem cell therapy to patients with lung diseases. Until we know more, we are strongly concerned that the treatment could cause adverse effects and could worsen the patient’s condition.
You may come across information on the internet or other sources about stem cells being administered to patients with lung diseases, such as emphysema, pulmonary hypertension or pulmonary fibrosis. We caution all patients to carefully consider the claims of benefit being made by many of these programs as they have not been substantiated or reviewed by experts in the field or any regulatory agency. We understand that patients may be attracted to these therapies because they have severe irreversible disease and are under great stress. Although we understand this motivation, we still advise against the use of these unproven and often expensive therapies.
Because of the potential for harm, the lack of any proven benefit, and the high fees that many of these programs charge, we caution you not to participate in these or any other unauthorized or unapproved stem cell administrations, unless independent credible, reliable, and objective sources of information are available to substantiate the information and claims being made.
Additionally, the Food and Drug administration recently issues draft guidelines clarifying that stem cells are considered drugs and need to be reviewed through a rigorous approval process before being using in patients.
At present, there are only a small number of approved clinical trials in the United States and Canada investigating cell therapy approaches for lung diseases. These can be found on the website of the National Institutes of Health at Clinicaltrials.gov. We are hopeful that there will be more in the future.
The American Lung Association has recently signed onto a statement along with a number of respiratory and thoracic societies, outlining the potential dangers and risks in using unregulated stem cell treatments for respiratory diseases. Read the entire statement here.
Please call the American Lung Association Lung HelpLine at 1-800-LUNGUSA for additional questions about stem cell treatments and their potential use for lung diseases.