If you read my blog here or on Regenexx.com you know I often write about what I experience every day. I recently got an email from a friend of the family that asked what I thought about Cendant Stem Cell, as a loved one was considering this clinic’s stem cell therapy for MS. So I decided to perform a deep dive into everything the clinic offers and this review was born.
The Goal of this Review
My goal here is two-fold. First, I wanted to provide my friend with a more detailed analysis beyond the one-sentence reply I had time for in the middle of seeing patients. Second, by reviewing Cendant Stem Cell, I can teach the average consumer of stem cell therapy what to look for and look out for. So let’s dig in.
What is Cendant Life Extension and Stem Cell Center?
Cendant Stem Cell is a clinic located in Greenwood Village, Colorado. It’s staffed by a physician named Stephen Holt, M.D. The website says he’s a rheumatologist, but no board certification comes up the American Board of Medical Specialties website lookup. On Linkedin, a business guy named David Locke is listed as the “Clinical Director” and “Medical Director”, which are both strange job titles for someone who has a 4-year business degree. The clinic claims to treat a huge range of problems from common orthopedic issues to spine, aging, COPD, Diabetes, Lupus, Parkinsons, and Multiple Sclerosis.
My Friend’s Email
“Hi Dr. Centeno. As you know my daughter has MS and she came across this article. I was wondering if you have heard anything about stem cell working with MS or if this is legit. If it is legit, is it something you will consider in the future as I wouldn’t trust anyone but you? I will put the link below for you to see.
I knew about Cendant Stem cell obliquely but had never really taken a dive into what they do, so I thought this was a great opportunity. Hence I reviewed their website and we had an employee call to get more details.
Treating MS: The First Red Flag
First, there’s a huge leap from using stem cells and other autologous biologic therapies to treat orthopedic and spine problems to treating multiple sclerosis (MS). In fact, the FDA seems to be using this line to define good from bad actors in this space. Why? Well, the reasons will soon become apparent.
The Cendant Stem Cell webpage for MS says that it is “A New Hope for MS Patients”. The website goes on to say:
“Treatment with Stem Cells have been found to be safe and lead to sustained improvements in disability and brain lesions of MS patients. One recent clinical study, “Clinical feasibility of umbilical cord tissue-derived mesenchymal stem cells in the treatment of multiple sclerosis,” was published in the Journal of Translational Medicine.
Today the hottest topic in Stem Cell research is the use of Exosomes combined with Stem Cells for use in treating human disease.”
We called Cendant Stem Cell recently and they use bone marrow concentrate as their “stem cell source”. Hence, this statement on this page is a simple bait and switch. Why? For example, the first article listed on the Cendant website as proof that their therapy works never used their therapy or anything like it. Cendant uses bone marrow concentrate which is a mix of many cells and this milieu contains some mesenchymal stem cells. The Israeli study that’s first up on the Cendant MS page used isolated and culture-expanded mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) at a MUCH higher 100-1,000X dose than Cendant could deliver (1). Meaning, to use a common metaphor, Cendant offers apples and the study quoted used oranges. The other citations on that page all suffer from the same issue, they describe therapies that Cendant doesn’t offer.
In summary, on the MS front, Cendant commits the same cardinal sin as many outfits offering stem cell therapy for incurable diseases. They offer one therapy but fail to publish any of their own research on that therapy. Hence, they’re often left quoting studies in support of what they do that have little in common with the therapy they offer.
Red Flag #2: We Treat Spine
The employee that called the clinic found out that Cendant Stem Cell only uses ultrasound imaging to guide injections and doesn’t have fluoroscopy. So let’s dive into this one a bit.
In order to perform advanced joint and spine care using platelet-rich plasma or bone marrow concentrate, you need to have both ultrasound and fluoroscopy (x-ray guidance). Why? Ultrasound works well for some applications and x-ray for others. For example, to treat a patient’s spine, if you want to be sure you’re in the disc, only fluoroscopy can accomplish that task, ultrasound is useless. The same holds for targeting specific areas of the epidural space around nerves or deep injections into other parts of the spine.
Why have only ultrasound and not both ultrasound and fluoroscopy? For many clinics it’s financial. A simple ultrasound machine will set you back 40K. A fluoro machine not only requires a special room and an expensive rad tech to run it but generally costs about three times as much. In addition, Cendant has another problem. Their physician, being a rheumatologist without a current board certification has no advanced spine training. Hence, when Cendant claims that it treats the spine, whatever is done is a mere fraction of what can be done by a clinic with advanced machinery and the fellowship-trained interventional spine physicians who know how to use it.
Red Flag #3-Using Illegal and Unproven Exosomes
On the MS page and elsewhere, Cendant Stem Cell claims to use exosomes. What’s that? Watch my video below:
Recently the FDA made a very clear statement that exosomes were an illegal and unapproved drug product (2). They also reported several cases of severe side effects due to exosome use in Nebraska. Finally, we don’t have a single clinical study in patients that shows that exosomes will help MS, back or neck pain, or knee arthritis. Meaning that any statement that exosomes can help any of these problems is completely unfounded.
Red Flag #4-NO Outcome Data
While Cendant has a few videos of patient testimonials, it has no published or even online outcome data that has been collected on the treatments it uses. For example, the clinic claims that it has developed a special protocol that uses bone marrow concentrate and a scaffold, but then fails to show any published results on that therapy. This is very common for many similar clinics just like Cendant, the ones in my opinion, where you want to steer clear.
Red Flag #5-Life Extension
One of the new buzz concepts among clinics that are pushing the legal envelope is that stem cells will somehow extend your life or reverse aging. The website says:
“These system and organ failures should not be thought of as inevitable breakdowns but, instead, as reversible elements of aging. This is the central premise of stem cell therapy in which we utilize systemic stem cell and NAD+ IV therapy to revitalize the cells and organs of the body. Today we now have limitless possibilities to reverse aging at every stage of life.”
Wow! These are some big claims. Again, here Cendant references an article that has absolutely nothing to do with what the clinic offers, which is an IV of the patient’s own bone marrow concentrate plus a chemical called NAD. For example, the pair of small studies cited used isolated and culture-expanded MSCs from young donors and NOT the patient’s own autologous bone marrow concentrate with NAD (3). Again, a bait and switch! In addition, these were “frail” elderly patients who couldn’t do much and the patients were followed for only 1 and 6 months, so we have no idea if these therapies helped accomplish anything like what Cendant claims.
In summary, we have absolutely no data that shows that the therapy that Cendant offers will help reverse aging or even be effective in the average aging patient.
Because of all of the red flags with Cendant, I told my family friend to steer clear. The bait and switch for MS therapy is really concerning and to some degree since my own niece has MS, very personally disturbing. Meaning I know first hand how hard it is for MS patients to find reliable information on new therapies and how easy it is for them to grasp for a miracle cure. On the lack of fluoro capabilities and the claim that the clinic treats spinal conditions, as an expert in spinal regenerative medicine and the first human on earth to inject stem cells into a degenerated low back disc, I find this alarming. The clinic has a non-spine trained rheumatologist without a current board certification perform simple spinal injections without a disclaimer that most of what would be considered advanced spinal regenerative medicine is well beyond the reach of Cendant. The use of illegal and unproven exosomes, for me, was the straw that broke the proverbial Camel’s back. In addition, while the website says that Cendant uses a special treatment protocol unique to the clinic, it reports no outcome data that it has published on that protocol. Finally, the claims that Cendant has found the proverbial “Fountain of Youth” by citing two small studies that used a treatment that Cendant doesn’t offer are, in my opinion, frankly ridiculous.
The upshot? I couldn’t recommend Cendant to my family friend. A deep dive into their website showed many red flags. Please do your own homework before getting anything billed as “stem cell therapy”.
(1) P. Petrou, I. Kassis, N. Levin, P. Friedemann, O. Frederike Cosima, M. Scheel, M. Hallimi, N. Yaghmour, T. Ben Hur, A. Ginzberg, D. Karussis. Indications of neuroprotective effects in progressive multiple sclerosis following autologous mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) transplantation: report of a randomised phase IIb double blind trial-Abstract: 157. ECTRIMS 2019 Congress, 11-13 September 2019: Stockholm, Sweden.
(2) US-FDA. Public Safety Notification on Exosome Products. https://www.fda.gov/vaccines-blood-biologics/safety-availability-biologics/public-safety-notification-exosome-products. Accessed 1/10/2019.
(3) David G Le Couteur, Rozalyn M Anderson, Anne B Newman, Rafael de Cabo, Stem Cell Transplantation for Frailty, The Journals of Gerontology: Series A, Volume 72, Issue 11, November 2017, Pages 1503–1504, https://doi.org/10.1093/gerona/glx158