Mother wants refund for experimental stem cell treatment

The mother of a woman dying of ALS says she wants a return of the $20,000 US she paid as a deposit for experimental stem cell therapy. Kate Millar says she asked Doug Broeska for a refund last week and he sent her a form releasing her daughter, Jaime Wild, from the clinical study involved.

Kate Millar says she hasn't heard from Doug Broeska about her deposit

Kate Millar, right, and her daughter Jaime Wild want their deposit back for experimental stem cell treatment in India.

The mother of a woman dying of ALS says she wants a return of the $20,000 US she paid as a deposit for experimental stem cell therapy.

Kate Millar says she asked Doug Broeska for a refund last week. In response, he sent her a form to fill out, releasing her 35-year-old daughter, Jaime Wild, from the clinical study involved.

Millar says she hasn't heard anything back since she returned the form.

"She's just getting worse every day and the stress of this doesn't help her at all," Millar said in a Skype interview from Queensland, Australia. 

Doug Broeska, left, is pictured with Surjo Banerjee and other staff in India. Banerjee says his medial research group, Genesis Ltd., has disassociated itself from Broeska, as it has questions about his qualifications and research methodology. (Courtesy of Surjo Banerjee)
"We were taking her there for stem cell treatment in hope of slowing it down. We believe they're going to come up with a cure for the disease soon, and we need to keep her going long enough to come up with this cure."

The treatment in Pune, India, involves widening the veins of the neck, then injecting the patient's own stem cells inside.

About 70 multiple sclerosis patients have been recruited through Broeska's Winnipeg-based company, Regenetek.

They pay up to $45,000 US for the treatment, although several have said they received no followup after returning home.

Many patients have reported feeling better after the treatment. Others say they saw no improvement.

Millar says she first heard of concerns over Broeska's academic qualifications when a local nurse contacted her several weeks ago.

I don't want to cause him any heartache or anything. I just need this money back.- Kate Millar

In a LinkedIn profile and CV, Broeska claimed to have a PhD from the University of Manitoba. The university says that is not true.

Broeska has produced a PhD certificate from Brightland University as proof of his qualifications. That university is unaccredited in the United States and United Kingdom, and the University of Manitoba confirms it would not recognize a degree obtained from there.

Read Brightland University's response to a query about its degree program here. The message was provided by a member of the public to CBC News.

The medical research group in India has disassociated itself from Broeska, saying it also has questions about his qualifications and research methodology.
Jaime Wild, left, hopes stem cell therapy will slow her ALS symptoms. (Kate Millar)

In December, it replaced him as principal investigator for the study after an independent ethics board ruled his involvement didn't meet international standards.

The University of Winnipeg's ethics board has also rejected a proposal to do followup rehabilitation with patients recruited through Regenetek.

At least three patients in Canada have brought concerns about Broeska to the RCMP and Manitoba's College of Physicians and Surgeons. Neither organization will say whether they are investigating. One person has also contacted the Canada Revenue Agency.

After doing some of her own research, Millar says she no longer had confidence in Broeska or his company, Regenetek, so she asked for her money back.

"When I was talking to him through Messenger, [Broeska said] he understood my position because … he had a daughter the same age as mine and he understood the way I felt," she said.

"Maybe he just needs to remember that. I don't want to cause him any heartache or anything. I just need this money back."

Millar says she'll use the money to get her daughter stem cell treatment in Israel instead.

Broeska has not done any interviews since this controversy broke. In response to a query about Millar's deposit, he and his PR company provided the following statement:

"In the interest of privacy protection and to preserve participant confidentiality, Dr. Broeska will not make specific comments about any one participant in the study. Dr. Broeska will follow-up personally with all participants in regards to changing their enrolment status and processing refunds."

In a statement last month, Regenetek said, "Participants desiring an enrolment refund will be fully accommodated."

Kate Millar hopes that's true.

"We just want our money back. I just need to try and get treatment for my daughter."