Lung Center defends DAP-funded stem cell program

By Ira Pedrasa,

Posted at Jul 17 2014 03:48 PM | Updated as of Jul 17 2014 11:48 PM

PCP: Stem cell therapy untested, expensive, and experimental

MANILA - The Lung Center of the Philippines (LCP) defended the P70 million it received as funding from the Disbursement Acceleration Program for a stem cell research project.

LCP Executive Director Jose Luis J. Danguilan admitted receiving P105 million in total allocations from the DAP, which he said was spent wisely. He said P35 million was spent for the LCP's pediatric unit while the rest went to stem cell research.

The stem cell research program was listed as the 15th item in the Department of Budget and Management list. It was named as the LCP’s Bio-Regenerative Technology Program.

The project intends to "fund the Bio-Regenerative Program aimed at harnessing stem cell research and technology to reconstruct new healthy cells, replacing cancer or dead cells."

Danguilan said the equipment bought for both the stem cell and pediatric unit programs have other uses.

"To spend the money wisely, it was decided that pieces of equipment needed for the Bioregenerative Program and the Pediatric Unit could also be used by the Department of Pathology and Laboratory, the Department of Thoracic Surgery and Surgery, the Department of Pulmonary Medicine and the Department of Radiology," he said.

He also noted the money was used to purchase equipment and supplies for the LCP Molecular Diagnostics and Cellular Therapeutics Laboratory for research "mainly on dendritic cell vaccine for use in cancer treatment, specifically lung cancer."

"To place things in perspective, the LCP is a tertiary hospital for pulmonary and other chest diseases, and as far as I know, it is the only tertiary pulmonary specialty hospital in the Philippines. As such, it should take the lead, not only in cutting edge treatment but also in advocacies," he added.

On Tuesday, members of the Philippine College of Physicians (PCP) said the priorities of the government when it comes to funding projects under the DAP seem to be misplaced.


"Is stem cell research so important when there are other pressing concerns affecting the population? It’s like an elephant in the room, there’s a bigger problem that you refuse to address. Stem cell will only benefit a few," PCP President Anthony Leachon said.

Leachon said there are other health issues that the government needs to address now.

"Stem cell is not an urgent issue. We have 25 million suffering from hypertension, 10 million suffering from diabetes. We have 3 out of 5 Filipinos dying of non-communicable disease," Leachon said.

Danguilan, however, pointed out that the Lung Center has an active smoking cessation program, an anti-air pollution program and is in the process of revitalizing its long dormant Early Detection of Lung Cancer Program, the Comprehensive Asthma Center, the Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Program and others.

"I am very sure Dr. Leachon, being the excellent internist that he is, realizes that cigarette smoking and air pollution are equally important public health issues."

He also slammed Leachon for supposedly using the media to allegedly destroy reputations.

"As for Dr. Leachon's elephant in the room, an idiom referring to an obvious truth that is either ignored or unaddressed, Dr. Leachon may likewise be compared to the bull in the china shop literally referring to a lumbering person damaging things --- and using the media as a blunt instrument to destroy reputations. If only he had bothered to visit the Lung Center or even called me by phone to clarify issues,” he said.


In a separate statement, PCP said stem cell therapy is "an untested, expensive and experimental therapy and doing research on it is not a national priority in all angles."

"The P70 million DAP money can go a long way in helping many poor patients rather than on unproven therapy that will benefit only a few Filipinos."

PCP stressed the money could have been used for research on scientifically-proven treatment for fatal non-communicable diseases, for the creation of a national workforce healthcare plan or for upgrading public hospitals like the Philippine General Hospital, Philippine Children’s Medical Center, Fabella Hospital, and other DOH or non-DOH public hospitals for the poor.”

PCP asked the government to answer the propriety of putting the DAP on regenerative medicine.

"As a research, SCT is in the least of research priority agenda since it is not seen to benefit the GENERAL INTEREST of the Filipinos,” PCP said.

“There are more important health issues that the country needs to address… And we need to address the inequities in health not just in terms of access to Philhealth but access to delivery of services that include availability of health professionals,” PCP added.