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Hopes Dashed as New Mesothelioma Drug Declared Failure

Mesothelioma researchers, physicians and patients have all been following the results of clinical trials of defactinib (VS-6063), Verastem’s latest entry into the mesothelioma drug market. The drug has been widely touted as a game changer in the treatment of the rare and always fatal form of cancer. But over the past month there have been concerns about the effectiveness of the drug, as an abstract indicating that it was showing poor efficacy hit the streets. Now comes word that the company is no longer enrolling patients in their clinical studies as they have had to acknowledge publicly that the drug has proven to be a failure.

In a statement released to the press, Verastem has indicated that investigators determined that there was no discernible difference between the patients being treated with the drug and those who were in a control group receiving a placebo. According to interim CMO Lou Vacickus, “With the aggressiveness of this disease, the use of single agent VS-6063 as a maintenance treatment following chemotherapy where all patients had residual disease was not sufficient.” The company’s CEO, Robert Forrester, indicated that Verastem would redouble its efforts by moving resources planned for defactinib into studies looking at other arms of the drug, specifically VS-4718 and VS-5584.

Defactinib represented a step away from more traditional cancer treatments being used in the treatment of mesothelioma. The drug focused on cancer stem cells, and great hopes were pinned on VS-6063 because it was specifically identified as a FAK inhibitor. The goal was to use the medication to put a halt to the signals mesothelioma cells send out to divide and grow.

In January of this year, reports had been issued indicating that the treatment had been yielding results that were better than expected. There were 180 patients enrolled at 55 sites throughout thirteen different countries. The drug was also being tested for effectiveness in the treatment of ovarian and non-small cell lung cancers. Defactinib was designed to obstruct the FAK protein within stem cells so that the cancer would lose its capacity to grow. This counters the use of chemotherapy, which some believe can actually increase the number of stem cells and lead to metastasis.

Terri Oppenheimer

Terri Oppenheimer is an independent writer, editor and proofreader. She graduated from the College of William and Mary with a degree in English. Her dreams of a writing career were diverted by a need to pay her bills. She spent a few years providing copy for a major retailer, then landed a lucrative career in advertising sales. With college bills for all three of her kids paid, she left corporate America for a return to her original goal of writing. She specializes in providing content for websites and finds tremendous enjoyment in the things she learns while doing her research. Her specific areas of interest include health and fitness, medical research, and the law.

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