AACR forum to discuss stem cells and cancer research: Public policy issues

Washington, D.C. Few issues in science have generated as much excitement and furor as the potential use of stem cells for the benefit of humanity.

For many, stem cells represent not just a potential new way of treating disease and disorders, but may provide an entire new way of practicing "regenerative" medicine. Others, however, have raised ethical concerns about the use of stem cells, particularly those obtained from frozen embryos concerned through in vitro fertilization. The issue also has been caught up and sometimes confused with talk about human cloning and the use of fetal tissue for transplantation.

To help put the research into a public policy context as it relates to cancer, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) has assembled a group of eminent scientists to speak at a Forum during its Annual Meeting. The Forum -- scheduled for 8:45 a.m. 10 a.m., Sunday, July 13 -- is appropriately titled "Scientific and Public Policy Issues in Embryonic and Adult Stem Cell Research."

Speakers include Drs. Curt Civin, with the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Md.; Darwin Prokop, Gene Therapy Center, Tulane University, New Orleans, La.; and Irving Weissman, Stem Cell Institute, Stanford University, Stanford, Calif.

The group will turn much of its attention to the potential value of embryonic stem cells versus (or in addition to) adult stem cells, and the potential uses of therapeutic cloning as clearly and importantly distinguished from reproductive cloning. In particular, they will discuss the current debate over specific legislation at the federal level and also in certain states, including bills proposed in California and Maryland.

In essence, a stem cell is an individual cell that renews itself when it divides, yielding another cell that is also a stem cell. In turn, this cell produces progeny that gives rise to mature cells for any organ of the body, such as blood, brain and live


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