A new trial on 50-60 patients with a new combination of immunotherapy drugs in mesothelioma, non small cell lung and pancreatic cancers will run through the Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC) Combinations Alliance network at centres in Edinburgh-Dundee, Southampton, Glasgow, Leicester and Belfast. The trial is the first cross-company deal announced by Cancer Research UK as part of its ECMC initiative and is organised in collaboration with MSD and Verastem.

The phase 1b/2a trial will investigate whether the focal adhesion kinase (FAK) inhibitor drug VS-6063 (defactinib) from Verastem can boost the effectiveness of the PD-1 immunotherapy drug pembrolizumab from MSD. Scientists at the Edinburgh Cancer Research UK Centre showed that inhibiting FAK can release the cancer immune response. Defactinib may be able to take down a barrier of immune cells which are tricked into protecting the cancer cells, while pembrolizumab can activate cancer-killing immune cells to attack those exposed cancer cells.