January 11, 2013

PharmaBiz

Verastem inks pact with LabCorp for cancer stem cell agent companion diagnostic

Verastem, Inc., a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company, has entered into an agreement with Laboratory Corporation of America Holdings (LabCorp) to validate biomarkers for its lead focal adhesion kinase (FAK) inhibitor VS-6063 in the development of an applicable companion diagnostic.

The biomarkers will be the subject of clinical studies in ovarian cancer and mesothelioma, including a potentially pivotal study of VS-6063 in mesothelioma expected to initiate later this year.

“The identification of patients most likely to benefit from targeted therapy is critical to accelerating the drug development and approval process,” said Henri Termeer, lead director, Verastem.

Clinical assay validation is an integral component to all companion diagnostics entering an FDA approval process.

Robert Weinberg, Ph.D., Verastem co-founder and chair of the Scientific Advisory Board, and others have demonstrated that FAK signaling plays a central role in the tumor-initiating capability of cancer stem cells and ultimate disease progression. VS-6063 is designed to target and kill cancer stem cells by inhibiting FAK signaling.

Mesothelioma tumours lacking the tumour suppressor Merlin appear to be particularly sensitive to FAK inhibitors. As shown recently at the EORTC-NCI-AACR Symposium on Molecular Targets and Cancer Therapeutics, sensitivity due to lack of Merlin is evident in both research models and early clinical proof-of-concept.

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