Mesothelioma attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm are happy to announce that Verastem, a cancer drug development company, recently held a mesothelioma briefing session at the annual American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago. The company announced that its lead compound recently received allowance from the FDA to begin clinical trials.
The company will begin enrolling participants this summer, as it moves quickly to bring new treatment options to mesothelioma patients. The drug, VS-6063, is taken orally and inhibits the Focal Adhesion kinase (FAK) pathway. Our attorneys reported on this new drug in January 2013, when Verastem entered into an agreement with LabCorp to aid in its development.
Verastem is based in Massachusetts that focuses on cancer treatment by targeting cancer stem cells. During the meeting in Chicago, the conversation focused primarily on the role of cancer stem cells and tumor suppressors in disease progression.
Researchers presented data demonstrating that the only current approved treatment for mesothelioma, Alimta, along with common chemotherapy drugs, all lack the inherent ability to kill cancer stem cells. In actuality, these drugs increase the percentage of cancer stem cells, which promote spread and growth.
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In contrast, VS-6063 preferentially kills the cancer stem cells by inhibiting a crucial signaling pathway within the stem cells. The FAK pathway leads to cancer proliferation and therefore cancer recurrence and spread. One of Verastem’s co-founders, Doctor Robert Weinberg, is pioneering this VS-6063 research and development.
Researchers are quick to highlight the potential of a tumor-suppressing protein called Merlin, which as many as half of all mesothelioma patients lack. This lack of Merlin would render these patients particularly susceptible to the effects of an FAK inhibitor such as VS-6063. The planned clinical trial coming up this summer will include patients with the Merlin protein and those lacking it. LabCorp is currently in the midst of developing a biomarker test that would identify these patients. This Merlin biomarker test is intended to be a companion diagnostic for VS-6063.
In the drug’s pre-clinical studies, VS-6063 was well-tolerated and showed signs of activity even in advanced, solid tumors. The new clinical trials are expected to take place worldwide; nationally, participants will be recruited at about 30 to 50 different centers in varying American metropolitan areas, such as Chicago, New York, San Francisco, and Boston.
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Pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline is currently developing a similar FAK inhibitor. Its initial studies involved about 30 patients. It is worth noting that those with Merlin-negative tumors showed much longer medical survival rates, at about 24 weeks, compared to Merlin-positive patients, whose median survival rates were at 11 weeks. GSK’s studies gave Verastem substantial proof that FAK inhibitors and Merlin testing procedures were well worth the investment.
Veratem’s progress has attracted worldwide attention, as the science surrounding VS-6063 provides much-needed hope for more, improved mesothelioma treatments. It was recently awarded orphan drug status by the FDA, which speeds up the development and approval process.
Mesothelioma lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm will continue to report on any new developments in the Verastem and GSK cancer treatments. If you or a loved one was exposed to asbestos and developed a related illness, you have important legal rights. You may be entitled to significant compensation for your medical bills, pain and suffering, and emotional distress, and should contact a skilled attorney as soon as possible.