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Verastem Releases Results of Recent Study

Verastem, Inc., a drug company specializing in the development of medications to treat cancer by targeting and killing cancer stem cells, has just published a research paper titled “Merlin Deficiency Predicts FAK Inhibitor Sensitivity: A Synthetic Lethal Relationship.” The paper was published in the most recent edition of the journal Science Translational Medicine, and reveals a successful study of the use of FAK (focal adhesion kinase) inhibition.

The highly technical study involved discovering that when there is a loss of the tumor suppressor merlin, a phenomenon that happens in approximately half of all mesothelioma patients, there is an increase in responsiveness to drugs that target cancer stem cells that have been inhibited through focal adhesion kinase. The impact of the procedure was demonstrated both on a cellular level and in in vivo models. The study indicated how strong the tumor-initiating capability of mesothelioma cancer stem cells are and that the medications that are currently the first line of defense in the treatment of mesothelioma actually augment those stem cells. By contrast, FAK inhibition effectively reduces the growth of the stem cells.

According to Jonathan Pachter, Ph.D. and Verastem Head of Research, “These data demonstrate that FAK inhibition is particularly effective in models of merlin-negative mesothelioma. These results build upon key findings published earlier this year by our collaborators at Fox Chase Cancer Center which demonstrated that merlin loss drives the development of highly aggressive malignant mesothelioma which is enriched for cancer stem cells. Accordingly, in a merlin-negative mesothelioma patient-derived tumor model, FAK inhibitor treatment as maintenance therapy prolonged the inhibition of tumor growth following treatment with pemetrexed and cisplatin.”

The results of the study are the basis for Verastem’s current clinical trial that is treating patients with mesothelioma after they have been treated with pemetrexed (Alimta) and platinum. Mesothelioma is a particularly aggressive and rare form of cancer that impacts those who have been exposed to asbestos. Mesothelioma affects approximately 59,000 patients worldwide per year, and is diagnosed in roughly 3,000 patients in the United States. It is always considered fatal, and is particularly difficult to treat because it is generally so far advanced by the time that it begins to exhibit symptoms. The current treatments for mesothelioma include a variety of surgeries, as well as the use of radiation therapy and chemotherapy.

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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