Biomarker Test may lead to New Mesothelioma Drug

A company that makes cancer stem-cell treatments is preparing to test a new mesothelioma drug.

The company, Verastem, Inc., specializes in creating agents that kill cancer stem cells. One of the company’s medicines, VS-6063, is a focal adhesion kinase inhibitor which will be involved in a mesothelioma study later this year. Pfizer, the original developer of this drug, already conducted a Phase 1 study of 36 patients and found that the drug was well tolerated enough to warrant further investigation.

A focal adhesion kinase (FAK) inhibitor inhibits a crucial signaling pathway to regulate the growth and spread of tumor cells. When this pathway is disrupted in preclinical cancer models, researchers noted a marked reduction in cancer stem cells, primary tumor mass, and metastasis. Earlier this year, Verastem co-founder and chair of the Scientific Advisory Board Dr. Robert Weinberg said, “Verastem has identified the FAK pathway as a critical regulator of the survival of cancer stem cells, which are an underlying cause of cancer recurrence and metastasis.”

Verastem is working with LabCorp, Inc. to validate biomarkers for VS-6063, a tumor suppressor that more than one-half of mesothelioma patients lack. This could make these patients more sensitive to FAK inhibitors. LabCorp will develop a test for the specific biomarker, which will help identify mesothelioma patients for an upcoming clinical trial of VS-6063, a step on the way to the FDA approval process. The company has announced that they will conduct multiple clinical trials with the drug in 2013, including a study that they call “a potentially pivotal study in mesothelioma”.

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