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Clinical Trials For Stem Cell Breast Reconstruction

Many of us remember Suzanne Somers portraying the dingy blond, Chrissy Snow, from the hit sitcom Three’s Company. If that seems like ages ago to you, you’re right! Somers, age 65, is now a senior citizen. Like many women, Somers was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her treatment required radiation and a lumpectomy, which removed a large portion of her breast and dramatically changed her silhouette. Though Japanese physicians have experimented with stem cell breast reconstruction for several years, a new clinical trial at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center is testing the efficacy and safety of this procedure. Somers’ plastic surgeon removed fat from her stomach using liposuction, processed the stem cells, and then injected a mixture of her own fat and stem cells into the affected breast. This experimental breast augmentation procedure restored Somer’s breast to a much more normal looking and natural feeling breast feeling and looking just like her unaffected breast. Though clinical trials like this one are responsible for advancing medicine, stem cell breast reconstruction is not for mainstream breast reconstruction, or at least not yet. Breast reconstruction is something that can be very beneficial to breast cancer survivors, but before undertaking any reconstruction process one’s plastic surgeon and oncologist should collaborate to make sure that the patient’s best interests are at the forefront. There is some conjecture that stem cells could actually stimulate the growth of cancer cells which may be left behind after a lumpectomy or mastectomy, but until more double blind, randomized controlled trials subject to peer review are aggressively evaluated by the medical community, stem cell breast reconstruction remains experimental. Rest assured that Michael Eisemann, M.D., a triple board certified plastic surgeon with a career spanning over 30 years, actively monitors such clinical data so that he can advise and educate his patients regarding breast reconstruction options.

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