Komen: Embryonic Research “Not Shown Promise” for Breast Cancer

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 7, 2012   |   7:47PM   |   Washington, DC

Lost in the debate over its funding of the Planned Parenthood abortion business, Komen for the Cure quietly changed its position on funding agencies that are engaged in embryonic stem cell research.

As LifeNews reported, on November 30, 2011, Komen quietly added a new statement to its web site stating that it does not support embryonic stem cell research but supports the kinds that do not involve the destruction of human life.

“Komen supports research on the isolation, derivation, production, and testing of stem cells that are capable of producing all or almost all of the cell types of the developing body and may result in improved understanding of or treatments for breast cancer, but are derived without creating a human embryo or destroying a human embryo,” Komen says. “A priority in our research funding is to quickly find and deliver effective treatments, especially for the most lethal forms of breast cancer, while seeking effective preventive strategies, enhanced screening methodologies, and solutions to disparities in breast cancer outcomes for diverse women.”

Komen, in its listing of grants for 2011, lists two stem cell studies that do not involve the use of embryonic stem cells.

More recently, Komen also released a new statement on Sunday on embryonic stem cell research — saying such research shows “no promise” when it comes to finding cures or treatments for breast cancer. In fact, embryonic stem cells themselves have never been tried on human patients because of massive problems such as the formation of tumors and immune system rejection issues — whereas adult stem cells have helped patients dealing with more than 100 diseases or medical conditions.

“While Susan G. Komen for the Cure does not conduct research, it does fund innovative research projects in leading institutions worldwide. Komen has a long history of funding groundbreaking research to fulfill its promise to save lives and end breast cancer forever. A recent review of our funded grants revealed that human embryonic stem cell tissue has not been used in breast cancer research funded by Komen,” the breast cancer charity said.

“Embryonic stem cells are currently considered to have the most potential for use in the regeneration of diseased or injured tissues. Whether embryonic stem cells will have a role or will be of value in the fight against breast cancer has not been clearly determined. To this point, embryonic stem cell research has not shown promise for application in breast cancer,” it added.

Komen says it “has not “de-funded” any grantee based on human embryonic stem cell research conducted at their institution” and will “will continue to focus its research efforts on the most promising areas of science which have the greatest potential for breast cancer patients.”

As LifeNews reported last July, Karen Malec of the Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer spent time examining Komen’s 990 Forms for the IRS for 2010 and she found that Komen has active relationships with at least five research groups or educational facilities that engage in embryonic stem cell research, which requires the destruction of unborn children in their earliest days for stem cells that have yet to help any patients.

The return showed donations from Komen totaling $3.75 million to Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, $4.5 million to the University of Kansas Medical Center, $1 million to the U.S. National Cancer Institute, $1 million to the Society for Women’s Health Research, and $600,000 to Yale University. All of them have embryonic stem cell research programs.

Komen’s funding for embryonic stem cell research centers was an issue for pro-life advocates. Recent statements from the Catholic Bishop of Toledo, the Most Reverend Leonard Blair, bring up both abortion and the potential of Komen indirectly supporting embryonic research as reasons for Catholics to have misgivings about the breast cancer group.

“They are open to embryonic stem cell research and may well fund such research in the future,” the bishop noted.

Pro-life groups will continue monitoring Komen regarding its donations and grants.