An international clinical trial that involves targeted mesothelioma cells released its findings last month, and currently, the results may show promise and hope to mesothelioma patients.
According to reports, Verastem, a clinical trial biopharmaceutical company, released a report on Jan. 2014 that indicates phase II of the trial of the drug defactinib (VS-6063) was currently tested on 155 mesothelioma patients across the nation. Along with testing for mesothelioma, the drug is also being used to test non-small cell lung cancers and ovarian cancer.
“In 2014, we achieved critical milestones across all of our development programs targeting cancer stem cells,” said Robert Forrester, Verastem’s President and Chief Executive Officer. “We remain highly focused on the successful execution of COMMAND for the treatment of patients with mesothelioma, an orphan disease, with VS-6063. We are seeing activity of VS-6063 across multiple tumor types, including mesothelioma, ovarian cancer, and also now in advanced non-small cell lung cancer. These results continue to increase our confidence in the potential of a successful outcome from COMMAND. Our goal is to achieve the first approval of VS-6063 in mesothelioma and then to broaden its use to many major cancers such as lung, ovarian and breast cancer.”
Mesothelioma Stem Cells Show Resistance to Chemotherapy
Although mesothelioma stem cells only make up a small part of all of the cells in a mesothelioma tumor, it’s been shown that these stem cells can be the cause of a tumor resisting chemotherapy. Consequently, defactinib was tested to block a stem cell protein located in the mesothelioma stem cells. Some scientists state that while stems cells are indeed shrunk during chemotherapy, they feel that it increases stem cells, leading to the cancer growing further. However, the results of the new study are promising.
How Control of Mesothelioma with Maintenance Defactinib Works
The study, known as Control of Mesothelioma with Maintenance Defactinib (referred to as COMMAND), includes a physician administering VS-6063 , along with Alimta ( A chemotherapy medication) at the same time. Alimta is currently the only FDA-approved drug for mesothelioma treatment.
According to Dr. Joanna Horobin, Verastem’s Chief Medical Officer, only a few side effects have surfaced after patients have taken the medication. Most patients, per Horobin, are having a good responsed to VS-6063.
“The goal is to try and improve disease control,” Horobin said. “The signals of clinical activity and long-term tolerability are encouraging. We’re seeing improved patient quality of life.”
Surgery and VS-6063
Another promising finding is that VS-6063 may work well with patients who need to go undergo surgery. A study that administered VS-6063 to patients for 12 days prior to a surgery indicate that tumor size was reduced in at least 70% of the total patients. Since then, the treatment has been to expanded to administer VS-6063 for 35 days prior to surgery.
However, if patients lack or are deficient in merlin, a cytoskeletal protein, the drug becomes even more effective prior to surgery. Around 41% of the patients in the study lacked merlin. This in turn is helping experts create a more exact target for future patients.
“Our hope is to have 6063 approved ASAP. Mesothelioma is the right tumor for that,” said Forrester. “Our goal is to achieve the first approval in mesothelioma, and then broaden its use to many major cancers, like lung, ovarian and breast cancers.”
Clinical Trials Information
Researchers are now recruiting more patients who would like to become involved in VS-6063 testing and trials. The following medical facilities currently have clinical trials open:
- Mayo Clinic: Rochester, MN
- San Francisco Medical Center at the University of California: San Francisco, CA
- University of Chicago Medical Center: Chicago, IL
- Cleveland Clinic: Cleveland, OH
- Johns Hopkins Comprehensive Cancer Center: Baltimore, MD
- Jacobi Medical Center: NYC, NY
- Abramson Cancer Center: Philadelphia, PA
- University of Texas Southwestern: Dallas, TX
- Sarah Cannon Research Institute: Nashville, TX
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