New Drug Found to Slow Cancer Progression for Some Mesothelioma Patients

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Here’s some good news for the mesothelioma community: A recent clinical study in Paris found that a new drug could potentially help prevent the spread of mesothelioma for patients lacking a gene called Neurofibromin 2.

Here’s how it works. Neurofibromin 2, also known as NF2, is a tumor suppressor gene in the body that prevents healthy cells from turning cancerous. NF2 produces a protein called merlin, which controls communication between cells and prevents them from growing in an uncontrolled manner. It is pretty common for mesothelioma patients, as well as patients with melanoma and cervical cancer, to lack both NF2 and merlin.

So what does this mean? Well, without NF2 and merlin, cancer activity is initiated by a protein called focal adhesion kinase, also known as FAK. When present, NF2 and merlin lower FAK activity and in turn suppress the aggressive growth and spread of cancer.

The study found that the drug GSK2256098 can be used to block FAK activity and stop the spread of mesothelioma.

Jean-Charles Soria, professor of medicine and medical oncology at South Paris University and the head of early-drug treatment at the Institut Gustave-Roussy, said, “If we could inhibit FAK in mesothelioma patients, it might slow or stop the spread of the disease.”

Professor Soria, along with other colleagues from nine cancer centers in France, Australia, and the United Kingdom began the study in 2010. While the researchers only tracked the effects of the drug in 29 patients, they plan to continue the study with larger clinical trials to confirm that GSK2256098 in fact slows down the progression of mesothelioma.

The process was very simple. The researchers recruited patients who had stable, progressive or non-measurable stages of the disease. The patients took the drug twice a day, in doses ranging from 300-1500 mg. The study found that patients had an average of 17 weeks before the disease progressed further.

The observed side effects of the drug were mainly low grade and tolerable, which, compared to chemotherapy, is an improvement. Chemotherapy is very hard on the body, and a drug that doesn’t take the same toll is definitely a plus.

The study also found that merlin could potentially be used to indicate which mesothelioma patients would benefit most from treatment with GSK2256098. Even better, it could improve the survival rates of patients and lead to drugs that stop the progression of mesothelioma entirely.

It is important to understand that this study is still in an early stage, and nothing is written in stone yet. While this is by no means a cure to mesothelioma, it is definitely encouraging to see that progress is being made in an effort to stop the spread of this aggressive disease.

Considering the hundreds of thousands of Americans that were exposed to asbestos following the terrorist attacks on 9/11, it is expected that a large number of people will be diagnosed with mesothelioma in decades to come. Giving these patients access to a drug that slows down or completely stops the spread of the disease would be innovative and nothing short of a miracle.

What do you think about this drug? Would you participate in the clinical trial? Let us know in the comments or respond on Facebook.


Nadia Persaud joined the Mesothelioma Center in 2011 as the Social Media Community Analyst. She is excited to be spreading awareness about asbestos safety and new developments in the industry with our online community. If you have a story idea for Nadia, please email her at npersaud@asbestos.com.

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