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New drug compound to be tested on mesothelioma patients

Mesothelioma cancer brought on by asbestos exposure is a frightening disease. In the typical case, mesothelioma is triggered by inhalation of airborne asbestos particles, which lodge deep in the lungs, irritating the plural membrane until a tumor begins to grow. The mortality rate for diagnosed cases of mesothelioma is very high, and with cruel irony, the decades long incubation period is often followed by a rapid and deadly progress. Patients are often left with just weeks to live.

Drug therapies that can effectively treat mesothelioma are a fervent hope for every victim of mesothelioma and their families. Fortunately, some drug companies are working on these medications. Verastem, Inc. has announced plans to begin testing a cell growth inhibitor that they hope will be effective against cancers like mesothelioma.

Their drug, known as VS-6063, will be tested this summer with 300 to 350 mesothelioma patients in a clinical trial who have had some prior treatment. They noted that the compound has been in development for a few years and has been used on other tumors.

The study will involve two groups of patients, merlin-positive patients and merlin-negative patients. Merlin is a protein that suppresses tumor growth. The company expects that patients who are merlin-negative could have a positive response to their compound.

In one trial, a similar drug resulted in a significant progression-free survival period (PFS). PFS is the time a patient with a disease like mesothelioma survives without the disease becoming worse. For merlin-negative patients, the PFS was 24 weeks, and the average was 18 for all patients.

This is a "dramatic" improvement, as the typical PFS for mesothelioma patients is six week.

Source:, "Verastem Inc. to Begin Developing Novel Mesothelioma Drug," Faith Franz, January 25, 2013

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