New Mesothelioma Drug Combats Cancer at the Stem

July 1, 2013  |  Mesothelioma

For someone suffering from an incurable disease, the research and testing process of clinical trials can seem to move at a glacial pace. This couldn’t be truer for mesothelioma patients who still face staggeringly low survival rates and arduous treatment regimes. Although there are numerous clinical trials being conducted for mesothelioma treatments, many of these treatments will not come soon enough for those currently battling mesothelioma. When a new mesothelioma drug is finally approved for patients, it is considered a great day for the mesothelioma community.

On June 13, 2013, the European Commission granted orphan status to a new drug that is used for the purpose of treating mesothelioma patients. The pharmaceutical company, Verastem, Inc., announced that the drug, VS-6063, was given orphan medicinal product designation and is now available for use in mesothelioma treatment. Based out of Cambridge, Mass., Verastem, Inc. is a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company that works to develop drugs that treat cancer by the targeted killing of cancer stem cells.

About 40 to 50 percent of mesothelioma patients are lacking the Merlin protein, which is believed to be influential in controlling cell movement, cell shape and cell communication. VS-6063 has been approved as a treatment for mesothelioma patients who are deficient in Merlin protein. The presence of Merlin also serves as a tumor suppressant, which acts to control the growth of cells in an uncontrolled manner.

Studies by multiple pharmaceutical companies including Verastem, Inc. have shown that mesothelioma patients Merlin-low mesothelioma cancer cells exhibit sensitivity to focal adhesion kinase inhibition — specifically what the VS-6063 drug addresses.

In a recent mesothelioma briefing session with Dr. Dean Fennell of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the discussion addressed the role of cancer stem cells and the Merlin protein in mesothelioma development. Verastem stated that existing mesothelioma treatments aren’t as effective because they do not treat the root of cancer cells, being cancer stem cells. Several studies have shown that mesothelioma stem cells can survive the effects of current anti-cancer treatment and continue to grow and divide. That is why the approval of VS – 6063 is an important breakthrough for the advancement of mesothelioma treatment.

The biopharmaceutical company is currently collaborating with LabCorp to develop a biomarker test to detect mesothelioma patients who have low levels of Merlin. The new drug is currently in a Phase 1/1b trial in conjunction paclitaxel for women with ovarian cancer.

The mesothelioma law firm of Baron and Budd is always happy to report on new treatments that could better the lives of mesothelioma patients. For over 35 years, the law firm has been representing the interests of those affected by asbestos disease and is committed to the advancement of mesothelioma care.

For more information on Baron and Budd, visit here.

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