Travera is using a breakthrough technology to measure which cancer drugs work against each individual’s unique cancer cells. The company is developing a universal biomarker to enable oncologists to quickly determine which drugs to prescribe based on the actual responses of their patients’ tumor cells to candidate drugs.
Travera was founded in 2017 to commercialize a breakthrough measurement technology and biomarker developed in the Manalis Laboratory in the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT. The core technology, a MEMS device called the Suspended Microchannel Resonator (SMR), is an exquisitely sensitive scale that can measure a small change in the weight of a single cancer cell.
“When cancer cells respond to cancer drugs, they start their process of dying by changing weight in just a few hours. The SMR can detect this tiny weight change. As most cancer cells die naturally within 1-2 days of being removed from the human body, speed is critical to distinguish between natural cell death and cell death induced by a cancer drug. It is this exquisite sensitivity that enables the SMR to detect a cancer cell’s response to a cancer drug while it is still a viable cell,” said Clifford A. Reid, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer of Travera.
This weight-change measurement is called the Mass Accumulation Rate (MAR) biomarker (where “mass” is used instead of “weight”). The extraordinary characteristic of MAR as a cancer biomarker is that it has the potential to personalize a broad range of cancer drugs for almost every cancer patient. It effectively incorporates all genetic biomarkers, both known and unknown, and incorporates the myriad of other factors (epigenetic, metagenetic, environmental, and any others), both known and unknown, that affect a cancer cell’s response to a cancer drug.
The Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute recently published results of a small study of multiple myeloma patients. Travera is expanding this study of multiple myeloma patients and extending the application of the MAR biomarker to other cancers. If successful, Travera will provide the oncology community with the first universal biomarker for cancer.