Spun Out of Wistar, Isoma Diagnostics Aims to Improve Brain Cancer Treatment

A few years ago Steve Davis lost a close friend to glioblastoma.

Today, he is leading a company developing a new approach to better diagnose and guide treatment for the common and deadly type of brain cancer.

“Glioblastoma has been treated as one type of cancer for more than 20 years with very little clinical improvement,” said Davis, co-founder and CEO of Isoma Diagnostics, a startup biopharmaceutical company spun out of the Wistar Institute.“Isoma intends to help change how glioblastoma is treated by changing how the cancer is diagnosed.”

Isoma has exclusive rights to technology licensed from Wistar and the University of Pennsylvania.

The technology is based on an assay that can identify differential expression of key gene transcript variants — known as isoform-level gene expression — associated with the condition. The company is using that discovery as the basis for a diagnostic tool to classify patients into glioblastoma subtypes. The four different gliobastomasub types that exist, Davis said, have different responses to standard treatments, which involve a combination of surgical resection, chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

“With some patients, the treatment causes a subtype to morph into a different more aggressive subtype in reaction to the therapy provided,” Davis said. Glioblastoma — which currently has a median survival rate of 15 months, with less than five percent of patients alive five years after diagnosis — claimed the lives of Darren Daulton, Beau Biden and Ted Kennedy. U.S. Sen. John McCain is currently battling the disease.

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