Stem Cell Research

Cancer Research and Prevention Foundation
Embryonic Stem Cell Research and Regenerative Medicine
January 31, 2012

The Prevent Cancer Foundation strongly supports maintaining policies that support embryonic stem cell research and regenerative medicine with strict, ethical oversight.

 The field of embryonic stem cell research is relatively new.  The research focus started in 1998 at the University of Wisconsin with the discovery of a method to derive pluripotent cells from human embryos and grow them in a lab. 

 In August 2001, President George W. Bush announced a policy of limited Federal support for embryonic stem cell research, stating that cells derived prior to that date were eligible for use in research with Federal funding.  Only 21 lines were ever approved for use under that policy.

 Over the subsequent seven years, Congress passed legislation expanding this policy.  The bill was met with vetoes and the policy remained restrictive.

 When President Barack Obama took office in 2009, one of his first actions was to issue an executive order expanding the Bush policy to allow research using any embryonic cell lines, as long as they met the strict ethical guidelines and review of the NIH.  The guidelines are active, with 135 eligible approved lines and about $562 million in Federal funding awarded for embryonic stem cell research since 2009.

 There is currently a court challenge to the research, yet funding is still available.  In August 2010 a judge in the DC Circuit Court issued an injunction stopping all Federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.  The Department of Justice (DOJ) appealed the injunction successfully.  The DOJ has since won decisions in support of the NIH guidelines but is awaiting another round of appeals.

 Embryonic stem cell research may hold great potential to improve the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer.  Scientific evidence indicates that stem cells provide powerful models of the cellular and molecular origins of many cancer types, helping us better understand the disease and provide insight into critical aspects of cell growth and differentiation altered during tumorigenesis. This work may also improve pre-clinical evaluations of drug toxicity and efficacy, identify markers for early cancer detection and aid in the discovery of novel treatment targets.

 The Prevent Cancer Foundation strongly supports embryonic stem cell research, as well as other forms of stem cell research such as bone marrow stem cells, adult stem cells and stem cells derived from cord blood.  We are also pleased to be a member of the Board of Directors of CAMR, the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research, and to work with this coalition of respected and diverse organizations, spanning diseases, to enact Federal policy that will support medical research.

 Embryonic stem cell research has the potential to benefit millions of Americans suffering from cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, spinal cord injury, heart disease and beyond.  In order to realize the full potential of embryonic stem cell research, the Federal Government must act quickly to ensure that research is being conducted with the most scientifically viable stem cell lines available, that the best and brightest medical researchers and clinicians are involved in the field, and that the United States and top research institutions remain leaders in biomedical and regenerative medicine research.