New Trial Shows Hope in Stopping Spread of Mesothelioma

A drug tested in a new clinical trial shows promise in stopping the spread of mesothelioma in patients who lack a specific biomarker, the gene NF2. The drug is currently known as GSK2256098.

In Genetics Home Reference, the NF2 gene aids in the production of a protein known as merlin. It is believed that merlin helps to control cell shape and movement, as well as communication between cells. Merlin also suppresses tumors, preventing them from growing and dividing too quickly or without control. According to researchers, roughly one-half of mesothelioma patients either don’t have the NF2 gene, or have the gene but it is inactive.

Additionally, the researchers also found that merlin regulates another protein, focal adhesion kinase (FAK), in mesothelioma cells. FAK activity increases and causes mesothelioma cells to spread and become invasive when both NF2 and merlin are inactivated. When researchers restored activity in NF2 and merlin, FAK activity and cell invasion decreased.

An average of 17 weeks before disease progression was noted in the 29 mesothelioma patients involved in the study. However, disease progression slowed to 24 weeks in patients in whom merlin was inactivated, as compared to 11 weeks in patients with active merlin.

“This study strongly suggests that inactivation of merlin may act as a marker to identify patients who may benefit from this compound,” said Professor Stefan Sleijfer, the scientific chair of the EORTC-NCI-AACR Symposium, from Erasmus University Medical Centre. “This is highly needed given the detrimental prognosis of patients suffering from mesothelioma,” Sleijfer added.

These study results were presented on November 8 at the 24th EORTC-NCI-AACR Symposium on Molecular Targets and Cancer Therapeutics in Dublin, Ireland.