Clinical trials are critical to finding and advancing treatments for mesothelioma patients. Since its inception in 2002, the International Mesothelioma Program (IMP) at Brigham and Women’s Hospital has been conducting a series of clinical trials to evaluate various treatment options for patients before, during and after surgery. At any given time, our experts within the IMP are conducting multiple treatment clinical/research trials—with some having lasted over a decade.

For certain trials, any patient with mesothelioma who requires surgery is eligible to participate. For other trials, the eligibility criteria are much more selective, considering factors such as the patient’s fitness level, cancer history, or if one or both sides of the lung are affected. There is, however, a singular trait that our patients share across all clinical trials: their unwavering commitment to making progress in the treatment of this deadly disease.

It is humbling to see so many patients eager to participate in trials at the IMP, even if they’re required to be monitored for a long period of time or make repeat trips to the hospital for additional testing. In one clinical drug trial we started in 2013 with our partners at the pharmaceutical company Verastem, 13 patients have volunteered so far to test, for the first time, a potentially revolutionary biological drug that targets mesothelioma stem cells.

The drug, Defactinib, is a focal adhesion kinase (FAK), which works by inhibiting the proliferation of cancer stem cells. Therefore, Defactinib can prevent several downstream signal transduction pathways, thus stopping tumor cell migration, proliferation and survival. Having already proven beneficial to patients with ovarian cancer, we believe this drug could have similar success in mesothelioma.

Participants in the trial take Defactinib orally, twice a day. Preliminary results from this trial are encouraging and we expect to enroll 7-12 additional patients in the coming year. While we expect this drug to improve survival in a subset of patients we realize that it will take many more drugs to be able to help all of the patients with mesothelioma. For this reason, we are currently working with several other pharmaceutical companies to introduce additional innovative drugs for clinical trials in mesothelioma.

Like our patients, we are committed to pursuing every promising treatment for mesothelioma and making them available as quickly and safely as possible. To ensure we find the right option for each individual patient, we must continue our research into the biology of mesothelioma tumors and test every drug that demonstrates potential for slowing and stopping their growth. I am hopeful that we will be able to transform this deadly disease into one that can be managed with the appropriate treatment and medication.

Disclaimer: The content of this blog post is for general educational purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This blog post should not be interpreted as an endorsement by Dr. Bueno of the blog’s sponsor.