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Verastem Presents Findings at International Conference

Attendees at the 12 International Mesothelioma Interest Group Conference, being held at the Cape Town International Conference Centre in Cape Town, South Africa, heard encouraging news from representatives of Verastem, Inc. regarding some of their clinical and preclinical trial results.

Verastem is a drug manufacturer that specifically focuses on the discovery and development of drugs that treat cancer by targeting cancer stem cells, and much of their effort is directed at finding a successful treatment protocol for mesothelioma. In his presentation to the group, Professor Raphael Bueno, M.D., Chief of Thoracic Surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and Principal Investigator of Verastem’s Window of Opportunity study said that they are seeing promising results from their efforts. The study is determining the value of VS-6063, also known as defactinib. Defactinib is an oral small molecule that targets cancer stem cells by inhibiting focal adhesion kinase (FAK) in patients with resectable pleural mesothelioma. The researchers have been taking biopsies of mesothelioma tumors prior to and after administration of the drug for twelve days as well as measuring tumor size via diagnostic imaging studies.

Their results showed marked decreased FAK activity, with an average drop of 70%. Tumor size measurements indicated that there was no progression in growth during the treatment period, and that two patients showed shrinkage of their tumors. In all cases the medication was well tolerated. “These initial biopsy data show signs of activity against biomarkers of cancer stem cells as well as intriguing reductions in tumor size after short term exposure to single agent VS-6063,” said Dr. Bueno. “To follow up on these encouraging results, the protocol is being amended to explore more extended dosing in 10-15 additional patients with mesothelioma prior to surgery. The window of opportunity before elective surgery provides a novel platform for the clinical evaluation of promising new agents for the treatment of this devastating disease.”

Following Dr. Bueno’s remarks, Verastem’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Joanna Horobin, said, “This study was designed to evaluate potential biomarkers of response to VS-6063 treatment in patients with pleural mesothelioma. We are encouraged by the biomarker response, and intrigued by the tumor shrinkage observed after twelve days of VS-6063 administration. As we expand our clinical program with VS-6063 in mesothelioma into other patient settings, we are encouraged by these interesting signs of clinical activity.”

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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