CAMBRIDGE, Mass.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Verastem, Inc., (NASDAQ: VSTM) focused on discovering and developing drugs to treat cancer by the targeted killing of cancer stem cells, held a mesothelioma briefing session on Saturday morning with Dr. Dean Fennell at the annual American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting in Chicago, IL.
Dr. Fennell is the Chair of Thoracic Medical Oncology at the University of Leicester, incoming President of the International Mesothelioma Interest Group (iMig) and a member of the Verastem Mesothelioma Steering Committee. Dr. Fennell presented together with Verastem Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Joanna Horobin and Head of Research, Dr. Jonathan Pachter.
“Asbestos is the causative agent in the vast majority of mesothelioma cases,” said Dr. Fennell. “Sadly, the use of asbestos continues worldwide. Due to the 10-50 year latency period from asbestos exposure to development of disease, we expect that the current trend of increasing mesothelioma incidence worldwide will continue. There is a large unmet medical need in mesothelioma and an opportunity to develop targeted agents to bring new hope to patients struggling with their disease.”
According to published reports there are still nearly two million tons of asbestos consumed globally each year. The incidence rate of mesothelioma is increasing in the United Kingdom, Australia, Japan, Western Europe and other countries. The majority of asbestos consumption occurs in Brazil, India, Russia and China; although hard data on the rate of mesothelioma incidence is often difficult to discern in these countries.
“We are moving quickly to bring new treatment options to patients with mesothelioma,” said Dr. Horobin. “Our lead compound, VS-6063, is an orally-available agent that inhibits the Focal Adhesion Kinase, or FAK, pathway. We have received allowance from the FDA to initiate a study of VS-6063 in mesothelioma and are in discussions with regulatory agencies worldwide to start the trial. We are working with the leading international clinical researchers in mesothelioma and expect to begin enrolling patients into the trial this summer.”
Key discussion points during the meeting focused on the role of cancer stem cells and the tumor suppressor Merlin in disease progression. Data were presented demonstrating that the only approved agent in the treatment of mesothelioma, known as Alimta®, as well as the commonly used chemotherapeutics cisplatin, vinorelbine, and gemcitabine all lack the ability to kill cancer stem cells in models of mesothelioma. These agents increase the percentage of cancer stem cells following treatment in these studies in contrast to VS-6063 which preferentially kills the cancer stem cells.
Approximately 40-50% of mesothelioma patients lack Merlin and studies by Verastem and others have shown that Merlin-low mesothelioma cells and tumors appear to be particularly sensitive to FAK inhibition. Verastem’s study is designed as an adaptive, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial to evaluate the effect of VS-6063 in both the overall patient population and also those who’s tumors are Merlin-low.
In addition to the upcoming mesothelioma study, VS-6063 is currently being evaluated in a Phase 1/1b trial in combination with paclitaxel in patients with ovarian cancer. Verastem has multiple programs targeting cancer stem cells in or entering clinical development in 2013. FAK inhibitor VS-4718 has received allowance from the FDA to initiate a Phase 1 trial in advanced solid tumors and the dual PI3K/mTOR inhibitor VS-5584 is currently in IND-enabling studies and is expected to enter clinical development in the second half of 2013.
A webcast of Saturday’s event is available on Verastem’s website and can be accessed at http://phoenix.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=250749&p=irol-eventDetails&EventId=4972566
Alimta® is a registered trademark of Eli Lilly and Co., Inc.
About Verastem, Inc.
Verastem, Inc. (NASDAQ: VSTM) is discovering and developing drugs to treat cancer by the targeted killing of cancer stem cells. Cancer stem cells are an underlying cause of tumor recurrence and metastasis. Verastem is developing small molecule inhibitors of signaling pathways that are critical to cancer stem cell survival and proliferation: FAK, PI3K/mTOR and Wnt. For more information, please visit www.verastem.com.
This press release includes forward-looking statements about the Company’s strategy, future plans and prospects, including statements regarding the development of the Company’s compounds, including VS-6063, VS-4718 and VS-5584, and the Company’s FAK, PI3K/mTOR and diagnostic programs generally, the timeline for clinical development and regulatory approval of the Company’s compounds, the structure of the Company’s planned clinical trials and estimates of the Company’s ability to fund operations. The words “anticipate,” “appear,” “believe,” “estimate,” “expect,” “intend,” “may,” “plan,” “predict,” “project,” “target,” “potential,” “will,” “would,” “could,” “should,” “continue,” and similar expressions are intended to identify forward-looking statements, although not all forward-looking statements contain these identifying words. Each forward-looking statement is subject to risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed or implied in such statement. Applicable risks and uncertainties include the risks that the preclinical testing of the Company’s compounds may not be predictive of the success of later clinical trials, that the Company will be unable to successfully complete the clinical development of its compounds, including VS-6063, VS-4718 and VS-5584, that the development of the Company’s compounds will take longer or cost more than planned, and that the Company’s compounds will not receive regulatory approval or become commercially successful products. Other risks and uncertainties include those identified under the heading “Risk Factors” in the Company’s Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2012 and in any subsequent SEC filings. The forward-looking statements contained in this presentation reflect the Company’s current views with respect to future events, and the Company does not undertake and specifically disclaims any obligation to update any forward-looking statements.