Doctors question Perry's stem cell back treatment

By MARILYNN MARCHIONE , AP Medical Writer
In this Aug. 16, 2011 file photo, Republican presidential candidate Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks to workers as he makes a campaign stop at D.C. Taylor Roofing in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He calls it innovative. Others call it a big risk. In any case, the stem cell procedure that Perry had last month was an unusual experiment to fix a common malady: a bad back. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)

(AP) -- He calls it innovative. Others call it a big risk. In any case, the stem cell procedure that Texas Gov. Rick Perry had last month was an unusual experiment to fix a common malady: a bad back.

Perry, the newest GOP presidential candidate, has access to the best possible care and advice. Yet he and his doctor chose a treatment beyond mainstream medicine: He had taken from fat in his own body, grown in a lab and then injected into his back and his bloodstream during a July 1 operation to fuse part of his spine.

The treatment carries potential risks ranging from to infection to cancer and may even run afoul of federal rules, doctors say. At least one patient died of a clot hours after an infusion of fat-derived stem cells outside the United States. It's not clear how much of this Perry might have known.

His doctor and friend, orthopedist Dr. Stanley Jones, could not be reached for comment despite repeated requests to the spokeswoman for his Houston-area hospital. Jones told the Texas Tribune that he went to Japan for a stem cell treatment that helped his arthritis and that he had never before tried the procedure he used on Perry. He also said it had no side effects or risks.

However, some top scientists are questioning the safety and wisdom of Perry's treatment, especially because it was not part of a clinical trial in which unproven therapies are tested in a way that helps protect patients and advances medical knowledge.

Perry "exercised poor judgment" to try it, said Dr. George Q. Daley, of Children's Hospital Boston and the Harvard Stem Cell Institute. "As a highly influential person of power, Perry's actions have the unfortunate potential to push desperate patients into the clinics of quacks," who are selling unproven treatments "for everything from Alzheimer's to autism."

Daley is past president of the International Society for Stem Cell Research, a group of 3,000 scientists and others in the field. He consults for several biotech companies and favors . But of Perry's treatment he said: "I would never in a million years accept for one of my family members to undergo this."

On the campaign trail Thursday in New Hampshire, Ray Sullivan, Perry's chief of staff, said: "The governor consulted with his physician and decided the best course of action for him. He's very pleased with the results of the surgery, with the rapid recovery and with the procedure that he had. And he feels like that is certainly his right to determine the best course of treatment for him."

Perry's treatment was first reported by the Texas Tribune. The procedure was done by Jones, who works at Foundation Surgical Hospital - a private, doctor-owned orthopedics center in suburban Houston - but Perry spokesman Mark Miner would not say where it took place.

"The governor chose this procedure to repair a reoccurring back ailment" and has confidence in the team that did it, Miner told The Associated Press. "The governor believed in this innovative approach."

It used Perry's own "adult" stem cells - not embryonic stem cells, a controversial technology that involves destroying an embryo, which the governor opposes. Adult stem cells have long been used to treat cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma - it's what doctors are using when they do bone marrow transplants. The cells are being studied for everything from heart disease to diabetes, but it's too soon to know if these approaches are safe or effective.

Some orthopedic surgeons, including Dr. Christoph Meyer at Jones' hospital, are experimenting with stem cells to help bones heal. The cells usually are taken from bone marrow and injected or implanted in the trouble spot, such as a knee or shoulder. The theory is that these "master cells" will follow cues from cells around them and form bone or cartilage, though scientists worry they also might spur unwanted growth and cancer.

Perry, however, had an even more experimental procedure: stem cells from fat removed by liposuction and grown in a lab for some time before they were put into his spine and bloodstream.

"It's a new technology that doesn't have the track record of the older ones," Meyer said. "Doctor Jones and Governor Perry made a bold move but that's how all advances in medicine have been made. I think it says a lot about Governor Perry that he was willing to try something like this that was new and untested. I mean that in a positive way."

However, Dr. George Muschler, an orthopedic surgeon at Cleveland Clinic, said fat-derived stem cells are "an unusual choice" because they don't form bone as readily as those from marrow.

Using them as was done for Perry is "quite experimental and it's quite controversial because there isn't good evidence yet, at least in the medical literature, that fat cells work better or even work at all in repairing bones," Muschler said. "It's out there, a little past the edge of what mainstream medicine would generally accept."

The Cleveland Clinic has three patents on cell-related technologies Muschler developed, and he has consulted for Medtronic Inc. and the federal Food and Drug Administration.

Dr. Thomas Einhorn, orthopedics chairman at Boston University, has tested some experimental stem cell therapies himself. He said one concern is that Perry's cells were grown in a lab dish with other ingredients where there is more of a risk they will transform into cancer and any breach in sterility could lead to an infection once they were put into a vein.

He also took issue with infusing the cells into Perry's bloodstream. "I can't think of any reason to do that. I wouldn't want to cause a blood clot."

It also enters a gray area with the FDA, which does not regulate how doctors practice medicine but does oversee medical products. Growing the cells in culture and possibly mixing them with other substances may make these modified cells a product. The FDA got an injunction barring a Colorado company from growing marrow-derived stem cells in this way; lawsuits over that are pending.

FDA spokeswoman Shelly Burgess said that the agency could not comment on Perry's treatment and that each case must be evaluated individually.

Besides safety concerns, little is known about whether such cell therapies work.

Patients may believe cells helped them, but there's no way to know they did unless a study is done comparing those who did and did not receive such treatment, said Dr. Scott Rodeo, an orthopedic surgeon at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York. He was a physician to the USA Olympics Teams in 2004 and 2008 and is associate team physician for the New York Giants football team.

Perry still wears a back brace sometimes now on the campaign trail, but he wasn't available for an interview Thursday. On July 12, less than two weeks after his surgery, he told an AP reporter: "Every day has been better. Not quite ready to go run a marathon in July but I feel great, wear a little brace and good to go. Everything is awesome."

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Moebius
3.7 / 5 (6) Aug 19, 2011
In an ideal world it wouldn't work and only embryonic stem cells would, providing him with a moral dilemma of epic proportions. Any bets on whether hypocricy would win out?
dogbert
3 / 5 (4) Aug 19, 2011
Moebius,

You have strange ideals.
Who_Wants_to_Know
5 / 5 (1) Aug 19, 2011
I wish to heck they'd study whether autologous stem cells cultured in the lab could be used to help spinal disks - both the nucleus itself and also any annular tears.
Astriaos
3.7 / 5 (6) Aug 19, 2011
I find this particularly amusing considering how Perry has historically been anti-stem cell research and has a terribly backwards view of modern medicine.
dogbert
3.7 / 5 (3) Aug 19, 2011
Having reservatioms about embryonic stem cell research does not translate into reservations about adult stem cells. A difference the article noted.
Nanobanano
3 / 5 (4) Aug 19, 2011
Thank God nobody except the most insane people would vote for this guy anyway.

He's a classic big oil/big coal cronie.

Besides, I think elections are rigged anyway.

"They" give you an illusion of having options, but secretly they already know who is going to win, because the U.S. is a republic, not a democracy.

The elections are pretend to placate the masses so that the masses "believe" they are free.

In reality, democracy is a con game too.

I suppose it's just as well, since mob rule and popular vote are not good ways to run anything anyway. My God, I certainly wouldn't want a mere majority vote in this country to determine policy, most people are idiots and ignorant of the facts on the policies.
knikiy
not rated yet Aug 19, 2011
How can I sign up to be on the same health plan he is on?
hush1
1 / 5 (1) Aug 19, 2011
The conjecture is:
Health care for this person must be dropped.
Too expensive and experimental. Motive?
Profits have priority over all life.
Moebius
2.3 / 5 (3) Aug 19, 2011
Moebius,

You have strange ideals.


I just don't like religious zealots who are generally hypocrites when put to the test.
dogbert
3.7 / 5 (3) Aug 20, 2011
Moebius,

Since Rick Perry's use of adult stem cells to treat his illness was not hypocritical, I'll stand by my statement that you have strange ideals.
ccr5Delta32
2.3 / 5 (3) Aug 20, 2011
One question ? would the adult stem cells treatment be practically possible without first the dissecting of the (unborn souls) actual discoveries made ? .At least in his life time
Godwins law notwithstanding he's using Joseph Goebbels data and is a hypocrite by default
dogbert
3 / 5 (2) Aug 20, 2011
I find it remarkable that people continue to promote embryonic stem cell research, which has produced little which would be useful therapeutically, while opposing adult stem cell research, which has been quite effective in therapeutic applications.

It should be noted as well that using an adult's own stem cells therapeutically negates any concern for rejection issues associated with foreign tissue.
freethinking
2.3 / 5 (6) Aug 20, 2011
Now if Perry would be Obama and he used stem cells from unborn babies killed by partial birth abortion then progressives would have no problem with this.

Progressives are such hyocrites. Its Rick Perry's body, he should be free to do with it as he pleases. What he does with it is between him and his doctors.

After seeing what progressives have done to this country in the last 5 years, only the truely insane would vote for Obama twice.
Ethelred
2.6 / 5 (5) Aug 21, 2011
only the truely insane would vote for Obama twice.
So then, you are going to vote for Obama again.

Ethelred
hush1
2.3 / 5 (3) Aug 21, 2011
"What he does with it is between him and his doctors." - Freethinking

True. His health care provider decides if this is profitable. If they can afford him. Profits first, life second.
freethinking
2.1 / 5 (7) Aug 21, 2011
Under the progressive system, health care provider decides what a government offical will allow and who the person is. If it is an elite progressive, the best health care that someone elses money can provide will be provided. If it is not, it is whatever a government official decides is best for the community, after deciding if the person is worthy of getting health care.
Vendicar_Decarian
3 / 5 (4) Aug 21, 2011
"Its Rick Perry's body, he should be free to do with it as he pleases." - FreeDumb

But that freedom doesn't extend to a woman's body when it comes to abortion. Apparently.

Vendicar_Decarian
2.3 / 5 (3) Aug 21, 2011
"Under the progressive system, health care provider decides what a government offical will allow and who the person is." - FreeDumb

Sadly in the failed American system it is the health insurer who decides such things. And then terminates a person's health care insurance if they become a burden.
Vendicar_Decarian
2.6 / 5 (5) Aug 21, 2011
"After seeing what progressives have done to this country in the last 5 years, only the truely insane would vote for Obama twice." - FreeDumb

And here I thought that Obama had only been in office for 2.5 years.

Bubba must be in a ConservaTard time warp.

Nevertheless, Obama has managed to convert Bush Depression 1 into Bush Recession 2.

I commend him.

Vendicar_Decarian
1 / 5 (3) Aug 22, 2011
Freethinker AKA FreeDumb thought the above message should be rated 1, because Rush Limbaugh told him that he must Hate Obama.

He is called FreeDumb for a reason after all.
freethinking
3 / 5 (2) Aug 22, 2011
If anyone thinks VD is a ration person please note he says -- I bring order to chaos. The only good Republican is a dead Republican. --

freethinking
2.6 / 5 (5) Aug 22, 2011
BTW the democrats had two of the three houses of government for 4.5 years. 2 Years with all three with a super majority.

Is America doing better now than 5 years ago?
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.3 / 5 (3) Aug 22, 2011
Have you seen the tumors that can grow from this treatment?

Seriously, do we want a president with a homunculoid growing out of his back??!?

"In swingin' San Francisco, a woman named Karen enters a hospital to have a nasty tumor on her neck removed. But surprise, it's not a tumor! X-rays reveal a rapidly growing fetus through which the soul of an ancient evil Indian medicine man -- sporting the friendly monicker of Misquamacus -- will be reborn. Say what?"
http://clarkblog....sim.html

-This would be worse than nancy reagans fortune tellers.
gimpypoet
not rated yet Aug 23, 2011
what happens when this mutates and changes him into a democrat?
hush1
not rated yet Aug 23, 2011
"Taxonomy is the science which deals with the study of identifying, grouping, and naming organisms according to their established natural relationship."

http://en.wikiped...Taxonomy

Good luck with that.