Too Good to be True? Adult Stem Cells For Breast Reconstruction?

There was a press release out of Arizona today on a new procedure  to use adult stem cells from fat to formulate new breast tissue that would grow its own blood supply.  The press release calls it “Natural Breast Augmentation” for breast enlargement, but also discusses the possibilities for reconstruction in breast cancer patients.  The technique sounds too good to be true.  Fat is removed from “saddlebags, love handles, lower abdomen, buttocks and thighs.”  Then the adult stem cells are harvested from the fat and placed in the breast area, along with some of the fat, resulting in breasts that “look and feel smoother” than those from conventional implant surgery.  Because of the stem cells, the tissue then grows a new blood supply.  Leading to potentially less complications than traditional reconstruction, according to the press release, which can have complication rates of up to 25%.

Maybe not too good to be true after all…..but the jury is still out.  At least 11 patients have undergone the procedure after lumpectomy, with good results.  However, it turns out that they are part of a “post-marketing” clinical trial being carried out by the same company Cytori, responsible for the Arizona press release.  Cytori developed the Cytori Celution System, which separates, washes, and concentrates the stem cells from the fat cells, before they are returned to the body.

I’m always leary when industry is driving medical advances with new procedures and devices.  This may turn out to be a great thing for breast cancer patients who want reconstruction, but let’s hope a cancer center or academic medical center gets interested and studies the utility and outcomes for this new procedure.

UPDATE

I turned up some research going on in this field at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.  Dr. J. Peter Rubin, an assistant professor of plastic and reconstructive surgery, and co-director of the Adipose Stem Cell Center, was awarded a Presidential Award for his groundbreaking research on using fat-derived stem cells to engineer soft tissue.  Research he hopes will one day benefit breast cancer patients.  He has a grant from the National Institutes of Health titled “Injectable Engineered Tissue for Cancer Reconstruction.”

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