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Verastem Mesothelioma Trials Continue to Inspire Optimism

Researchers investigating the efficacy of Verastem’s new drug, defactinib, continue to express enthusiasm and optimism about the drug’s usefulness following early results from an ongoing international clinical trial. Defactinib, also known as VS-6063, is one of the most promising drugs that are currently being tested in the search for a cure for mesothelioma, a rare and always fatal form of cancer that is caused by exposure to asbestos. Patients who are diagnosed with mesothelioma generally have a life expectancy of less than two years following diagnosis. Defactinib is manufactured by Verastem, and is being tested for mesothelioma, as well as for ovarian cancer and non-small-cell lung cancer in its second phase of clinical trials. There are currently about 180 patients enrolled in the trial across over a dozen countries. The drug’s goal is the killing of stem cells, which are known to cause metastasis and tumor recurrence. According to Verastem’s Chief Financial Officer Robert Forrester, “We’re onto something really important here. We beliee we have the opportunity to change the way cancer is treated and to make a significant difference in the lives of many patients. Our confidence in each of these drugs continues to grow. The outlook has been grim for a patient with mesothelioma. The good news is that targets in treatment are clearly emerging. There is increasing confidence now that 6063 is a drug that can help many patients. We’ve seen what is happening.”

Stem cells make up a very small portion of a mesothelioma tumor, and yet they have been found to play a large role in the cancer’s resistance to chemotherapy. Defactinib’s impact lies in its ability to block a specific protein within the stem cells called Focal Adhesion Kinase. By doing this, it stops the cancer from growing. The drug is given in combination with Alimta, which at this point is the only FDA-approved drug for the treatment for mesothelioma.

The international study is being done in several cities across the United States, including Philadelphia, New York, Baltimore, Chicago and San Francisco. Patients are still being recruited for the trials, which hope to attract a total of 372 patients by the end of 2015.

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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