Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and MaRS Innovation today announced a co-development agreement for WaveCheck, an ultrasound technology that transforms conventional equipment so that physicians can monitor a breast cancer tumour’s response to chemotherapy.
The partnership with GE Healthcare, brokered by MaRS Innovation, seeks to develop WaveCheck as a clinical tool that gives clinicians rapid, improved transparency to determine if breast cancer tumors are responding to chemotherapy.
WaveCheck is a clinical technique invented, refined and tested by Dr. Gregory Czarnota, chief of Radiation Oncology at Sunnybrook’s Odette Cancer Centre, and Michael C. Kolios, professor of Physics and associate dean, Research and Graduate Studies, in Ryerson University’s Faculty of Science. Their technology uses ultrasound to visually demonstrate whether chemotherapy is destroying a breast cancer tumour at the beginning of chemotherapy treatment in as little as one week. If applied to the clinic, this knowledge has the power to transform patient experience, since existing breast cancer patients typically wait until the end of treatment, anywhere from four to six months, to know if their tumor has responded.
In early clinical testing, WaveCheck’s inexpensive, non-invasive, image-guided technology shows promise as an accurate, efficient way to monitor tumour response, opening the door to tailored treatment.
The agreement leverages GE Healthcare’s extensive ultrasound technology and market expertise in bringing new ultrasound innovations to global hospitals and clinics with Sunnybrook’s leadership in oncology research and cancer care through the Odette Cancer Centre.
“This deal represents a paradigm shift in commercializing a technology,” says Dr. Raphael Hofstein, president and CEO of MaRS Innovation. “From the outset, we’ve seen WaveCheck’s potential to revolutionize cancer treatment monitoring from the ground up, rather than making the kind of small and expensive improvements that are more typical. Yet, ultrasound is largely unknown territory for cancer treatment monitoring and the global market is increasingly competitive. Finding a suitable industry partner and developing a working relationship is a considerable challenge and I wish to acknowledge Fazila Seker’s leadership of this deal.”
“We are pleased to welcome GE to our existing international and government partners, notably MD Anderson Cancer Centre, MaRS Innovation and the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research,” said Dr. Michael Julius, vice-president of research at Sunnybrook. “Clinical testing is an important step in bringing our innovations to patients, and we’re pleased with this technology’s remarkable preliminary results to date. But it’s only part of the story. To reach people worldwide with breast cancer who stand to benefit from this technology, we need a global partner who also values and prioritizes investment in tomorrow’s health care.”
WaveCheck received support from over 500 people worldwide through a MaRS Innovation-led Indiegogo campaign in the fall of 2013, and was twice-named to the Globe and Mail’s Top 10 Canadian crowdfunding campaign list. The technology also received a major grant from the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research in April 2014.
The resulting funds were used to open a second test site for WaveCheck at MD Anderson Cancer Centre in the United States in May 2014. Through this clinical study, which is currently underway, 20 Canadian and 20 American women with locally-advanced breast cancer will help Sunnybrook’s research team to demonstrate whether WaveCheck produces results of equivalent quality when used within other leading cancer centers.