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Clinical Trial of New Drug that May Boost Mesothelioma Chemotherapy Success Under Way

Posted by copeland on June 18, 2014


Each year, upward of 3,000 people are diagnosed with new cases of mesothelioma in the United States. Although it's among the rarest forms of cancer, it's also increasing in frequency. In fact, the number of diagnoses has increased four times over since the 1980s, and the annual rate of new cases is expected to rise over the next few years.

But hope may be on the way, say cancer researchers and mesothelioma lawyers with Orlando's Todd E. Copeland & Associates. Evidence thus far gleaned from an ongoing clinical trial, suggests that experimental mesothelioma drugs that inhibit focal adhesion kinase (FAK) may be able to dramatically improve the effectiveness of chemotherapy for thousands of mesothelioma patients. In a report published in the Science Translational Medicine medical journal, Verastem, Inc. described how its FAK inhibitors make certain mesothelioma cells more susceptible to commonly prescribed chemotherapy drugs.

Approximately half of mesothelioma patients lack a tumor suppressor called merlin. In these patients, their cancers tend to be particularly aggressive. However, results of Verastem's research shows that these merlin-lacking cancers also are more sensitive to FAK-inhibiting drugs. Not only do these drugs attack mesothelioma tumor cells, but they also appear to target merlin-negative cancer stem cells, destroying them both in the laboratory and in live mice infected with human mesothelioma. It's those stem cells that are responsible for melanoma relapse after chemotherapy treatment.

By comparison, standard chemotherapy drugs, even while shrinking mesothelioma tumors, actually stimulate the production of those stem cells. By nixing that production of stem cells, FAK-inhibitors may help make chemotherapy's cancer-fighting effects last longer, researchers say.

Mesothelioma typically is caused by exposure to asbestos in the workplace and may not be detectable for several decades. Because of the decades-long delay, and because a number of the symptoms of mesothelioma mimic those of pneumonia, it's suspected that the majority of mesothelioma victims don't seek legal representation and, thus, never get the compensation they're due.

If you've been diagnosed with mesothelioma, we may be able to help you secure compensation for your losses. Contact an experienced mesothelioma attorney with Orlando's Todd E. Copeland & Associates at 407-999-8995.