Precision medicine for cancer has produced some powerful new targeted therapies (such as imatinib for chronic myeloid leukemia), but unfortunately, as reported in Science in 2018, the number of cancer patients who match a targeted therapy is about 15%, and the number who benefit from targeted therapies is about 6%. Travera’s test has the potential to personalize the majority of cancer drugs, across multiple mechanisms of action, for the majority of cancer patients, across blood cancers and solid tumors.
How Our Test Works
Our test is not based on genomics. Instead, we measure a biophysical property: the weight change of ex vivo cancer cells when exposed to a cancer drug. This weight change measurement is made possible by a new invention, the Suspended Microchannel Resonator (SMR), which weighs individual cancer cells with sub-picogram accuracy.
Our publications have shown that this weight change begins very quickly, within a few hours of exposing the cancer cells to cancer drugs, and that it applies to many different cancer drugs with different mechanisms of action across many different types of cancers.
To determine if the ex vivo growth rate responses of cancer cells to cancer drugs can predict actual patient responses, a collaborative study between MIT and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI) was conducted to compare the ex vivio growth rate responses to the actual patient responses for nine patients with multiple myeloma who were given three myeloma-directed drugs. Travera’s measurements correctly matched the responses of all nine patients.
1 Cermak N, et al. High-throughput measurement of single-cell growth rates using serial microfluidic mass sensor arrays. Nat Biotechnol. 2016 October; 34(10): 1052–1059.
2 Burg TP, et al. Weighing of biomolecules, single cells and single nanoparticles in fluid. Nature. 2007 Apr 26;446(7139):1066-9.
3 Cetin AE, et al. Determining therapeutic susceptibility in multiple myeloma by single-cell mass accumulation. Nat Commun. 2017 Nov 20;8(1):1613.
Our Testing Process
Our clinical workflow, which is currently under development, will consist of three steps.
Step 1: You will collect live cancer cells from your patient and ship them to us using a prepaid Travera shipping kit (a standard Class B shipper).
Step 2: We will receive the shipment, unpack the sample, purify the cancer cells, and run a panel of cancer drugs against the live cancer cells, measuring and comparing the weight response of cells in the presence and absence of each cancer drug.
Step 3: We will calculate the statistical confidence of the sensitivity or resistance of the cells to each tested drug, and send the report back to you.
Our approach will be able to test many different drugs with just 100,000 cells, which can typically be acquired through a second-pull bone marrow biopsy (for multiple myeloma) or a fine-needle biopsy (for solid tumors). We are currently conducting studies of a variety of different solid tumor types to validate that fine needle aspirates can reliably deliver us the live cancer cells that we require.
The cancer drugs and drug combinations that we test will be selected based on consultation with you and based on genomic analysis. If the patient’s cancer genome has been sequenced, then we will select the most likely to work candidate drugs based this sequencing data. If the patient’s cancer genome has not been sequenced, then we will select the most likely to work candidate drugs based on a population of patients with the same cancer.
Does One of Your Multiple Myeloma Patients Want to Participate in Our Clinical Study?
Travera is studying the use of its test in patients with relapsed refractory multiple myeloma (RRMM). We are currently working with leading cancer experts at prominent academic institutions to enroll study participants. This study collects bone marrow aspirate samples from patients prior to the start of a new treatment regimen for the purposes of prospectively measuring single-cell weight response as a biomarker of patient response to that regimen.
Read our new white paper
The purpose of this white paper is to provide an overview of how therapies are selected for cancer patients and explain the current challenges of precision medicine and points to a promising future for personalizing cancer therapies.
Travera’s solution is to try drugs on the OUTSIDE of the patient rather than INSIDE. That is, remove some of the cancer cells from the patient and apply the drugs to these removed (“ex vivo”) cancer cells. We can then try many different cancer drugs (in very small quantities) against these cancer cells. This approach completely eliminates toxicity, dramatically reduces the cost (because we only need enough drug to treat a few cells, not a whole person), and only takes a couple of days.
“While the introduction of several novel agents and regimens for newly diagnosed multiple myeloma and relapsed/refractory multiple myeloma has improved outcomes, it has also increased the complexity of treatment selection since not all patients respond. Having a test that can prospectively assess an individual’s personalized response is a much needed breakthrough for patients with multiple myeloma.”
Patient advocate and multiple myeloma survivor