New and better treatments for mesothelioma, a lethal cancer caused by asbestos, continue to be the focus of research in the medical science community. In my previous post, I discussed a new mesothelioma treatment successfully proven in preliminary laboratory studies to deliver meso-fighting chemotherapy medication to where it’s needed without destroying healthy cells.
Today I’ve got good news on the medication front. Verastem, a pharmaceutical company headquartered in Cambridge, Massachussetts also the home of Harvard University, is planning a sophisticated study to test a new drug aimed at treating malignant pleural mesothelioma which affects the lining of the chest cavity. Verastem’s study calls for the participation of hundreds of human volunteer subjects. This is exciting because successfully testing a drug on humans is necessary for drug approval. If this study yields favorable results, Verastem hopes to initiate the approval process in three years, according to industry sources.
As a company, Verastem focuses exclusively on discovering and developing drugs to treat cancer by killing cancer stem cells. Cancer stem cells are an underlying cause of tumor recurrence and metastasis. Verastem develops tiny molecules that act as roadblocks to cancer stem cell survival and proliferation. Defactinib is the name Versatem has given to the new molecular inhibitor of cancer stem cells specific to pleural mesothelioma. In fact, the new study’s name is COMMAND, an acronym of Control of Mesothelioma with Maintenance Defactinib.
“Development of a drug that preferentially kills cancer stem cells is a promising approach, as many standard-of-care treatments have been shown to either have no effect on, or actually enrich the population of, these chemoresistant cells,” said Dr. Joan Horobin, a Verastem Chief Medical Officer.
COMMAND researchers plan to recruit 350-400 meso patients as study participants in 11 countries, including the US, UK, Australia, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand and countries in mainland Europe.
The goal of the double-blind placebo-controlled study is for the subjects to achieve Progression Free Survival (PFS) and Overall Survival (OS). It is hoped that the new medication will offer an alternative to Alimta which was approved twelve years ago.
“The incidence of mesothelioma, among the most aggressive and lethal cancers, is increasing worldwide, underscoring an urgent need to expand the very limited treatment options for patients fighting this disease,” said Professor Dean Fennell, Chair of Thoracic Medical Oncology at the University of Leicester, incoming President of the International Mesothelioma Interest Group (iMig) and Coordinating Investigator for COMMAND in the UK.