Verastem focuses on targeting cancer cells directly as well as indirectly by way of the tumor microenvironment.

The tumor microenvironment encompasses various cellular populations and extracellular matrices within the tumor or cancer niche that provide structural and biochemical support to the surrounding cells – and support cancer cell survival. This includes immunosuppressive cell populations such as regulatory T cells (Tregs), myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs), M2 tumor-associated macrophages, as well as tumor-associated fibroblasts and extracellular matrix proteins, which can hamper the entry and therapeutic benefit of cytotoxic immune cells (white blood cells that kill cancer cells) and anti-cancer therapies.

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and small lymphocytic lymphoma (SLL)

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and small lymphocytic lymphoma (SLL) are cancers that affect the same lymphocytes. CLL and SLL are often thought of as the same disease, with the only difference being where the cancer primarily occurs. When most of the cancer cells are located in the bloodstream and the bone marrow, the disease is referred to as CLL. When the cancer cells are located mostly in the lymph nodes, the disease is called SLL.

Many patients with CLL/SLL do not have any obvious symptoms of the disease at the onset or for many years and it may ultimately be detected through routine blood tests and/or a physical exam. For others, the disease can be detected when symptoms occur including a tender, swollen abdomen and feeling full even after eating only a small amount. Other symptoms can include fatigue, shortness of breath, anemia, bruising easily, night sweats, weight loss and frequent infections. CLL/SLL may cause different symptoms depending on the location of the tumor in the body.

Follicular lymphoma (FL)

Follicular lymphoma (FL) is the most common indolent (slow-growing) form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), accounting for approximately 12 percent of all B-cell NHLs. Common symptoms of FL include enlargement of the lymph nodes in the neck, underarms, abdomen or groin, as well as fatigue, shortness of breath, night sweats and weight loss. Often, patients with FL have no obvious symptoms of the disease at diagnosis.

T-cell lymphomas

T-cell lymphomas account for approximately 15 percent of all non-Hodgkin lymphomas (NHL) in the United States. There are many different forms of T-cell lymphomas, some of which are extremely rare. T-cell lymphomas can be aggressive (fast-growing) or indolent (slow-growing).

Lymphomas are often, but not always, named from a description of the normal cell that leads to cancer. The general term peripheral T-cell lymphoma (PTCL) refers to the entire group of mature or “post-thymic” T-cell lymphomas (arise from mature T-cells), which distinguishes them from the “immature” or “pre-thymic” PTCLs such as acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) or lymphoblastic lymphoma. Almost all types of T-cell lymphoma fall under the category of PTCL.

PTCL consists of a group of rare and usually aggressive (fast-growing) NHLs that develop from mature T cells. Most T-cell lymphomas are PTCLs, which collectively account for about 10 percent to 15 percent of all NHL cases in the United States.

Most Common Sub-types of T-cell Lymphomas

  • Peripheral T-cell Lymphoma
  • Anaplastic cell Lymphoma
  • Angioimmunoblastic Lymphoma
  • Cutaneous T-cell Lymphoma

Less Common Sub-types of T-cell Lymphomas

  • Adult T-cell Leukemia/Lymphoma (ATLL)
  • Blastic NK-cell Lymphoma
  • Enteropathy-type T-cell lymphoma
  • Hematosplenic gamma-delta T-cell Lymphoma
  • Lymphoblastic Lymphoma
  • Nasal NK/T-cell Lymphomas
  • Treatment-related T-cell lymphomas

Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC)

There are two main types of lung cancer:

NSCLC is any type of epithelial lung cancer other than SCLC. The most common types of NSCLC are squamous cell carcinoma, large cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma, but there are several other types that occur less frequently, and all types can occur in unusual histologic variants. Although NSCLCs are associated with cigarette smoke, adenocarcinomas may be found in patients who have never smoked.

NSCLC arises from the epithelial cells of the lung within the central bronchi to terminal alveoli. The histological type of NSCLC correlates with site of origin, reflecting the variation in respiratory tract epithelium of the bronchi to alveoli. Squamous cell carcinoma usually originates near a central bronchus. Adenocarcinoma and bronchioloalveolar carcinoma usually originate in peripheral lung tissue

Most lung cancers do not cause any symptoms until they have spread, but some people with early lung cancer do have symptoms. The most common symptoms of lung cancer are:

  • A cough that does not go away or gets worse
  • Coughing up blood or rust-colored sputum (spit or phlegm)
  • Chest pain that is often worse with deep breathing, coughing or laughing
  • Hoarseness
  • Weight loss and loss of appetite
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling tired or weak
  • Infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia that don’t go away or keep coming back
  • New onset of wheezing

Ovarian cancer

Ovarian cancer is a disease in which, depending on the type and stage of the disease, malignant (cancerous) cells are found inside, near, or on the outer layer of the ovaries. The term ovarian cancer includes several different types of cancer (uncontrolled division of abnormal cells that can form tumors) that all arise from cells of the ovary. Most commonly, tumors arise from the epithelium, or lining cells, of the ovary. These include epithelial ovarian (from the cells on the surface of the ovary), fallopian tube, and primary peritoneal (the lining inside the abdominal cavity that coats many abdominal structures) cancers.

In women ages 35-74, ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer-related deaths. An estimated one woman in 75 will develop ovarian cancer during her lifetime.

Ovarian cancer (known as the disease that “whispers”) may not cause any specific symptoms, particularly in its early stages. When it does cause symptoms, these may be nonspecific and vague. Symptoms can include:

  • abdominal enlargement or swelling,
  • abdominal fullness, bloating
  • early satiety (feeling full early),
  • changes in bowel or bladder habits, or
  • lower back pain
  • vaginal bleeding

Other signs and symptoms can include shortness of breath, leg swelling and pain in the abdomen or pelvis. Fatigue may be present, but it is considered another nonspecific symptom.

Pancreatic cancer

Pancreatic cancer arises when cells in the pancreas, a glandular organ behind the stomach, begin to multiply out of control and form a mass. There are a number of types of pancreatic cancer.

Pancreatic cancer is the third-leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States, surpassing breast cancer. The most common, pancreatic adenocarcinoma, accounts for about 85 percent of cases, and the term “pancreatic cancer” is sometimes used to refer only to that type. These adenocarcinomas start within the part of the pancreas that makes digestive enzymes. Several other types of cancer, which collectively represent the majority of the non-adenocarcinomas, can also arise from these cells. One-to-two percent of cases of pancreatic cancer are neuroendocrine tumors, which arise from the hormone-producing cells of the pancreas. These are generally less aggressive than pancreatic adenocarcinoma.

Signs and symptoms of the most common form of pancreatic cancer may include yellow skin, abdominal or back pain, unexplained weight loss, light-colored stools, dark urine and loss of appetite. There are usually no symptoms in the disease’s early stages, and symptoms that are specific enough to suggest pancreatic cancer typically do not develop until the disease has reached an advanced stage. By the time of diagnosis, pancreatic cancer has often spread to other parts of the body.

Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is a rare, aggressive form of cancer that develops in the lining of the lungs, abdomen, or heart. Caused by asbestos, mesothelioma has no known cure and has a very poor prognosis.

Mesothelioma is most commonly classified by the location in the body where it develops. Specifically, the cancer forms in the lining of certain organs or spaces within the body, known as the mesothelium. Mesothelioma typically develops in one of three specific areas:

  • Pleural mesothelioma, the most common type, is caused by the inhalation of asbestos fibers.
  • Peritoneal mesothelioma is the result of inhaled or swallowed asbestos fibers that become trapped in the lining of the abdomen (the peritoneum).
  • In rare cases, asbestos fibers can get lodged in the pericardium, the lining around the heart, causing pericardial mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma symptoms can take 20 to 50 years to appear after the first exposure to asbestos. The signs of mesothelioma often look like those of other diseases, which can lead to misdiagnosis. When someone exhibits mesothelioma symptoms, doctors perform a variety of tests to rule out other diseases. It normally takes weeks or months for doctors to arrive at an accurate mesothelioma diagnosis.