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Verastem cancer treatment gets European incentives

NEW YORK (AP) -- Cancer drug developer Verastem Inc. said Thursday that its most advanced experimental treatment was awarded orphan drug status in the European Union.

The decision by the European Medicines Agency means VS-6063 could get up to 10 years of marketing exclusivity if it is approved. Verastem is studying the drug as a treatment for mesothelioma, a cancer caused by asbestos exposure. VS-6063 is in early-stage testing and Verastem plans to file for marketing approval in late 2015 or 2016.

Verastem is developing drugs that prevent recurrences of cancer by targeting cancer stem cells. Those cells often survive current treatments.

Verastem is testing VS-6063 in overall mesothelioma patients and in a group of patients who have low levels of a particular marker. Verastem said 40 to 50 percent of mesothelioma patients have low levels of the marker, and their tumors may be more vulnerable to treatment with drugs like VS-6063.

The company is also studying VS-6063 as a treatment for ovarian cancer.

Shares of the Cambridge, Mass., company gained 98 cents, or 9.9 percent, to $10.90 in midday trading. They are approaching the high end of their 52-week range of $6.25 to $12.