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12:00 AM
 | 
Aug 15, 2011
 |  BioCentury  |  Emerging Company Profile

Verastem: Cancer stem cell engine

Verastem removes bottleneck to finding drug compounds against cancer stem cells

Cancer stem cells have long been recognized as important therapeutic targets, but growing enough of them to allow for screening with typical drug discovery methods has been a challenge. Verastem Inc. believes its techniques have removed the bottleneck to high throughput screening.

Cancer stem cells (CSCs), which often remain after treatment with chemo- or radiotherapies, are believed to be responsible for disease recurrence and can migrate through the body to form metastases.

Verastem uses a procedure developed by co-founder Piyush Gupta and colleagues that forces cancer cells to undergo epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT). Co-founder Robert Weinberg said cells undergoing EMT "acquire a 'stem-ness'" that includes increased motility, the ability to form new cancers, and an increased resistance to chemotherapies - all properties of CSCs.

With the ability to drive cells through EMT, Verastem can produce an almost unlimited number of its CSCs for screening.

Researchers from the Broad Institute and Verastem have screened more than 300,000 compounds from libraries at Broad, the Whitehead Institute for...

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