Tributes: Jocelyn Farrar, Meso Foundation Board Member and Bill Lindsay, New York Assemblyman

Jocelyn FarrarJOCELYN FARRAR

It is with great sadness that we announce to the community the loss of two public figures who died this past week of malignant mesothelioma. Jocelyn Farrar, DNP was a member of our Board of Directors and widely known throughout the community for her work on behalf of mesothelioma patients, both raising awareness and critical research funds to help us win the war on meso. A vibrant young woman, Jocelyn, following her EPP returned to the gym as well as the classroom where she educated the next generation of nurses. Jocelyn recently completed a video where she discussed those challenges of living with this disease and the need for more effective treatment options. Her video will be made available to the mesothelioma community in the coming weeks. A memorial service is planned to take place at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, MD, as Jocelyn was a loyal baseball fan. You may remember Jocelyn from this appeal that she wrote a few years ago.

Bill LindsayBILL LINDSAY

William Lindsay was a New York assemblyman who died after a 20 month battle with mesothelioma. Despite the illness, and following his EPP, Bill remained active and continued to fulfill his duties as County Legislator and the Presiding Officer of the Suffolk County Legislature. He was dedicated to his constituents and his service was acknowledged by the 800 mourners who attended his memorial. Bill and his family have been active in raising awareness and used his political connections to help educate the public about mesothelioma and the need for research funding. His family will continue to fight on behalf of mesothelioma patients despite this tragic loss. More about Mr. Lindsay can be found in this article.

We wish to offer our sincere condolences to these families and all families who have lost loved ones to mesothelioma. We will honor their memory by telling their stories and raising awareness of the desperate need for research to find a cure.

Want to make a difference for mesothelioma patients? Donate to mesothelioma research today.

Meso Awareness Day Events: Part One

ROD's Benefit for MesoSeptember 26th is nationally recognized as Mesothelioma Awareness Day. As important as it is to spread awareness every day of the year, September 26th is the biggest day to do so. Events are one of the best ways to raise awareness and funds for mesothelioma, and there are many coming up surrounding September 26th. As mesothelioma is a widely unknown and underfunded form of cancer, raising awareness is a huge step in the right direction towards finding a cure.

Four events will be held on Saturday, September 21st. The weekend will start off with Mission Cure Meso: Run for a Cure. Beginning at 8am, Karen and Mark Kalber will be running in the Air Force Marathon in Dayton, Ohio in honor of Rich Mosca and all meso warriors. Karen will be running a full marathon, and Mark will be running a half marathon. Anyone interested can support their efforts in the race by heading to Karen and Mark’s fundraising page.

Kayaking 4 Meso

Mark Wells’ 3rd Annual Kayaking 4 Meso event will also be held on September 21st. This one-way kayaking event will have two launch times. The first launch will be a 16-mile paddle beginning at Fort Hardy Park in Schuylerville, New York at 8am. Everyone will meet in Stillwater, New York for the second, 3-mile launch at around 12pm. All kayakers will finish the paddle together at Mechanicville Boat Dock in Mechanicville, New York where festivities will continue until 4pm. For more information, visit the event’s website at kayaking4meso.org.

In Alton, Illinois, the 5th Annual Miles for Meso Alton event will start at 8am on September 21st to raise funds for mesothelioma research. This event will consist of a 5k Race as well as a 2k Fun Run/Walk. There will also be activities for children, live music, and vendors. Those interested in registering for the race can do so for $30 at milesformeso.org. Registration will also open the morning of the event at 7:30am for $35. For additional information, contact the event organizer Julie Gundlach at 314-616-9272.

Closing out September 21st is ROD’s 4th Annual Benefit for Meso at Eleanor Town Park in Eleanor, West Virginia. Registration will begin at 10:30am for $25, which includes an event t-shirt as well as other goodies. A 5k run/walk with a purple and lime green color scheme will be held in the morning with prizes for the best times. Throughout the day, there will also be lunch, live music, family activities, and raffles. More event information can be found at rodsbenefit4meso.webs.com or through the event organizer Missy Bowles at 304-395-0636.

There will be two events on Sunday, September 22nd in Ohio and New York. The Bruce A Waite Miles for Meso 5k Run/Walk will be held at Ontario High School in Ontario, Ohio. Registration will open at 1pm and the 5k will begin at 2pm. For more information, visit brucewaite5k.com. In Phelps, New York, Mission Cure Meso: Annual Dog Walk for Meso will be held at Ontario County Pathways beginning at 1pm. This event is being held in memory of Dr. John Wright. Janice Wright, the organizer, can be contacted at jwrigh1@rochester.rr.com for more information.

Want to join the cause in the fight against mesothelioma? See more on how you can get involved.

BREAKING NEWS: New Clinical Trial Opening

New press release daily newspaper headlinePRESS RELEASE

Contact Verastem, Inc.
Brian Sullivan, 617-252-9314
bsullivan@verastem.com

CAMBRIDGE, MA – Sep. 10, 2013 – Verastem, Inc. (NASDAQ: VSTM), focused on discovering and developing drugs to treat cancer by the targeted killing of cancer stem cells, today announced the initiation of COMMAND (Control Of Mesothelioma with MAiNtenance Defactinib). COMMAND is a registration-directed trial of lead cancer stem cell inhibitor defactinib (VS-6063) in patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma, a highly aggressive form of lung cancer with a high percentage of cancer stem cells.

COMMAND is a registration-directed, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial with Progression Free Survival (PFS) and Overall Survival (OS) as the primary endpoints. The study incorporates the opportunity to enrich for patients with tumors low in the biomarker, merlin. Preclinical and early clinical research has demonstrated that low merlin levels are predictive of increased effectiveness of FAK inhibitors such as defactinib. The COMMAND study will stratify patients to evaluate the effect of defactinib in both the overall patient population and the subgroup that are merlin low.

“FAK inhibition holds significant potential in malignant pleural mesothelioma, a cancer whose aggressiveness and treatment resistance proves all too often to be devastating for patients,” said Dr. Joanna Horobin, Verastem Chief Medical Officer. “Development of a drug that preferentially kills cancer stem cells is a promising approach, as many standard-of-care treatments have been shown to either have no effect on, or actually enrich the population of, these chemoresistant cells.”

COMMAND is expected to enroll approximately 350-400 patients at clinical sites in 11 countries, including the US, UK, Australia, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand and countries in mainland Europe. Eligible patients who had a partial response or stable disease following standard first-line therapy with platinum/pemetrexed will be stratified to merlin low or high and then randomized 1:1 to receive either placebo or 400 mg of defactinib twice daily.

“The incidence of mesothelioma, among the most aggressive and lethal cancers, is increasing worldwide, underscoring an urgent need to expand the very limited treatment options for patients fighting this disease,” said Professor Dean Fennell, Chair of Thoracic Medical Oncology at the University of Leicester, incoming President of the International Mesothelioma Interest Group (iMig) and Coordinating Investigator for COMMAND in the UK. “This well-designed study is expected to deliver a one-two punch to the tumor by treating with defactinib following first-line therapy that achieves initial disease control, but has not eliminated the cancer stem cells nor historically stopped disease progression, in an attempt to prolong clinical response. There is significant enthusiasm within the mesothelioma community for the COMMAND study.”

Verastem was recently granted orphan drug designation for defactinib in mesothelioma by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Orphan Drug Products.  The Company received a similar designation from the European Commission in June of this year. Adding to an intellectual property portfolio including composition of matter for defactinib, these designations provide eligibility for seven- and ten-year periods of market exclusivity, respectively, after product approval, as well as other development incentives.

“Timely initiation of this study marks yet another important milestone in our development of defactinib, and highlights the diligent execution of our clinical strategy by Verastem’s research and development team,” said Robert Forrester, Verastem President and Chief Executive Officer. “We will provide an update on the progress of this study in our year-end update in the first quarter of 2014.”

In addition to defactinib in mesothelioma, Verastem recently announced the completion of the Phase 1 stage and initial data from an ongoing Phase 1/1b study of defactinib in combination with weekly paclitaxel for patients with ovarian cancer. Verastem expects to initiate additional studies of defactinib including a Phase 2 trial in KRAS-mutated Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer and a Phase 1 study in Japan during the third quarter of 2013. The Company also announced the recent initiation of a Phase 1 study of FAK inhibitor VS-4718 in patients with advanced cancer, and that it expects to enter the dual mTORC1/2 and PI3K inhibitor VS-5584 into the clinic later this year.

About Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma

Malignant pleural mesothelioma is an aggressive form of cancer that occurs in the mesothelium, the thin layer of tissue that covers the lungs. Mesothelioma is associated with exposure to asbestos in most cases. According to the World Health Organization, a total of 59,000 deaths occur worldwide each year due to mesothelioma. Most mesotheliomas begin as one or more nodules that progressively grow to form a solid coating of tumor surrounding the lung leading to eventual suffocation and death. A high percentage of mesotheliomas contain cancer stem cells which are generally resistant to the currently available treatment options for advanced mesothelioma.

About Defactinib

Defactinib (VS-6063) is an oral compound designed to target cancer stem cells through the potent inhibition of focal adhesion kinase (FAK). Cancer stem cells are an underlying cause of tumor resistance to chemotherapy, recurrence and ultimate disease progression. Research by Robert Weinberg, Ph.D., scientific cofounder and chair of Verastem’s Scientific Advisory Board, and Verastem has demonstrated that the FAK pathway is critical for the growth and survival of cancer stem cells.  Defactinib is currently being studied in a registration-directed COMMAND trial in mesothelioma and a Phase 1/1b study in ovarian cancer. A Phase 2 trial in KRAS-mutated Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer and a Phase 1 study in Japan are expected to begin in the third quarter of 2013.  Defactinib has been granted orphan drug designation in the U.S. and E.U. for use in mesothelioma.

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.

Forward-looking statements:

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 expected timing for the reporting of data from ongoing trials, the structure of the Company’s planned or pending 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 and preliminary data from clinical trials may not be predictive of the results or success of later clinical trials, that data may not be available when we expect it to be 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.

 

Fundraising Made Easy

Lava for Lance

Lava for Lance Triathlon

by Erica Ruble, Fundraising Coordinator, Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation

I am writing this month’s fundraising blog with a heavy heart. Friday, August 16th marked the 5th anniversary of the passing of my mentor and dad, Lance S. Ruble. It feels like forever since I have seen him and heard his voice, but like it was just yesterday that he passed away. The pain and sadness is still raw and real.

Reflecting on my dad’s passing, I am reminded why I continue to fundraise and channel my anger and sadness into something positive. I know many of you out there in our community want to contribute to finding a cure for this disease. Whether you are a mesothelioma patient, caregiver of a mesothelioma patient, or you have lost a loved one, fundraising will not only impact your life in a positive way, but will also have a profound effect on others that can be life changing.

I have the privilege of speaking with many of you in the meso community about fundraising. I hear your concerns and uncertainty about hosting your own event and I understand them. However, it is important to remember that fundraising does not have to be a daunting project. It can be easy. When I began my fundraising efforts years ago, I wrote a simple letter about my dad and mesothelioma to send to family and friends. It was a great way to ease into fundraising because it was cost effective, there was no deadline, and it was relatively simple to get started.

There are plenty of other easy ideas to jump start your fundraising efforts. A dress down day at your workplace or school is one of them. For example, employees or students can make a contribution to the Meso Foundation and are able to “dress down” (i.e. wear jeans or a hat) in exchange for their donation. Another fundraiser that many community members find stress-free to implement is a “meso night out” at a favorite restaurant. For this type of event, you designate a specific night at a restaurant of your choice and invite your friends and family to attend. The restaurant then donates a percentage of sales to the Meso Foundation from the dinners ordered by your group. Having a captive audience in a setting like this provides a great platform to educate friends and family about mesothelioma.

One of the most rewarding aspects of my job as Fundraising Coordinator is talking with meso community members and hearing how passionate and excited they are after they host an event. There is something unique about being able to take something negative, scary, and unknown like mesothelioma and create a positive experience not only for you, but for others as well. National Mesothelioma Awareness Day is September 26th, and now is the perfect time to plan your fundraiser. Please reach out to me by email, phone, or on Facebook with your questions. I encourage you to join me and the meso community and be a part of our fundraising efforts and our MISSION: CURE MESO.

Be a part of the cure. Donate to the mission to cure meso today.

Importance of Dental Hygiene for Mesothelioma Patients

mouth_smallCancer therapies often result in xerostomia (dry mouth), a condition that can lead to increased risk of infection and cavities. Bacteria in the mouth are kept in check by saliva, which is a crucial fist line of defense in maintaining good oral health. When there isn’t enough saliva produced, or the amount available isn’t enough to clear infection-causing bacteria, it is possible to develop sores and excoriated tissue. Dry mouth is also a causative factor of malodorous breath and cavities, as food particles are not cleared away as quickly as they would be in a well-hydrated state.

Symptoms of dry mouth include stringy saliva, cracked or dry lips, difficulty speaking, and a burning sensation. When the mouth becomes too dry, chewing and swallowing are affected and may increase the risk of aspiration pneumonia, a life-threatening condition for at-risk cancer patients.

In mesothelioma patients, xerostomia is most often caused by chemotherapy, but lack of hydration and sometimes radiation can also be the culprits.

Xerostomia can be treated with medications to stimulate the production of saliva or with over-the-counter chewing gum and mouthwashes, depending on the severity.

Scheduling a dentist appointment before initiation of chemotherapy is a good practice to follow in order to identify and correct any dental conditions. Once chemotherapy has begun, patients should  brush 3 to 4 times daily, as vomiting and acid reflux are known to erode dental enamel. During this period, fluid intake should also be increased and gentle flossing should be continued. If platelets become low, patients should discontinue flossing until advised to resume.

It is important for mesothelioma patients to schedule regular dental check-ups. Because some dental interventions should not be performed when a patient is at a high risk for infection or bleeding, patients should inform their dentists if they are receiving chemotherapy treatments.