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Sunday, May 31, 2015

Stem cell tourism continues to gain popularity despite the risks

Ian Callaghan, with wife Amy and young son Noah, will travel to Singapore for haematopoie
Ian Callaghan, with wife Amy and young son Noah, will travel to Singapore for haematopoietic stem cell treatment. Ian has a rare form of MS. Source: Supplied
INCREASING numbers of desperate Australians are travelling overseas for a controversial medical treatment that is not approved locally.
Stem cell tourism continues to gain popularity among patients seeking a cure for conditions such as multiple ­sclerosis, with clinics in countries from Singapore to Russia promising ­solutions.
It comes despite warnings from ­Australian health professionals that the effectiveness of autologous haematopoietic stem cell treatment (HSCT) is unproven, dangerous and comes with exorbitant costs.
Adult Stem Cell Foundation executive director Bruce Lahey said hundreds of Australians continued to seek out the service every year.
During HSCT a patient’s stem cells are extracted before they receive high doses of chemotherapy that wipe out their immune system. Weeks later the stem cells are transplanted back for the patient to develop a new immune system.
Young Regents Park police officer Ian Callaghan doesn’t have time to wait and will travel to Singapore for HSCT on June 1. The 33-year-old father of Noah, 16 months, was diagnosed with an extremely aggressive form of MS in 2013.
The disease has been making progress faster than expected and hasn’t been slowed by medication. If it continues, he will be wheelchair bound within a year and bedridden in five.
The senior constable suffers severe fatigue and numbness down the left-hand side of his body making it impossible to walk more than 200m.
His partner Amy, 27, is pregnant with twin girls who are due during his treatment.
During HSCT a patient’s stem cells are extracted before they receive chemotherapy that wi
During HSCT a patient’s stem cells are extracted before they receive chemotherapy that wipes out their immune system. Later, the stem cells are transplanted back for the patient to develop a new immune system. Source: Supplied
He has made the selfless decision to delay returning to Singapore for the transplant, which will put his severely depleted immune system at risk, to see the birth of his daughters and spend time with them. When he returns to Australia after the transplant he will have to be isolated from his children to protect his new immune system.
For Mr Callaghan, the risks and the $125,000 to $150,000 price tag are worth it for the chance of becoming MS-free.


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