Brain Cancer Avatars for Personalizing Drug Treatments

Matt de Silva

Notable Labs

Title: Rapidly Repurposing FDA-Approved Drugs to Treat Brain Cancer
Investigator: Matt De Silva
Grantee: Notable Labs

Despite continuing progress in developing personalized drug therapies for brain cancer, patients are faced with the grim reality that high-grade brain cancers like GBM can progress so rapidly, if unchecked, that there may be an opportunity to try only one or two different drug regimens.  But what if every patient were able to have unlimited numbers of experimental avatars—miniaturized versions of their own brain tumors growing in a laboratory dish—that could rapidly test hundreds or thousands of different drug therapy possibilities for them, and then only consider taking the drug therapies that can be shown to work?

This tantalizing idea is the basis of a new company called Notable Labs.  Founded by Matt De Silva in 2013, Notable Labs uses cutting-edge personalized testing to help brain cancer patients and their doctors find effective tumor-killing treatments.  These treatments are specifically tailored for patients' needs by focusing on treatments already approved by the FDA – in other words, on drugs that doctors can prescribe for patients right away.

To identify personalized treatments that work for an individual patient, Notable Labs grows miniaturized brain tumors from the patient in the laboratory.  Then, using high-tech robotics, Notable Labs tests whether thousands of different FDA-approved drugs or drug combinations can kill these laboratory avatars of the patient's brain tumor.  Notable Labs then ranks the tested treatments by efficacy and safety and then sends them to the patient’s doctor, who can select and initiate the treatment strategy with the greatest chance for success.

Based on the remarkable potential of this idea, ABC2 invested in Notable Labs in 2014 to mature its technology for use in the broader brain cancer community.  The investment from ABC2 will help Notable Labs to optimize its testing processes, validate their predictive capability, and move toward clinical trial testing in patients with glioblastoma.  This investment could thus identify effective, personalized, and—critically—available treatments for brain cancer.