WaveCheck to Transform Chemotherapy Monitoring for Women with Breast Cancer

Indiegogo campaign to raise funds for North American clinical study during Breast Cancer Awareness Month; 12 artists donate 13 original works worth over $15,000 to support campaign

Toronto, Canada (October 9, 2013) — WaveCheck a painless, non-surgical clinical technique developed by a Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre oncologist and a Ryerson University physicist and supported by MaRS Innovation — is poised to transform chemotherapy response monitoring for women with breast cancer.

Dr. Gregory Czarnota of Sunnybrook Health Sciences (left) and Professor Michael Kolios of Ryerson University, WaveCheck's inventors.

Dr. Gregory Czarnota of Sunnybrook Health Sciences (left) and Professor Michael Kolios of Ryerson University, WaveCheck’s inventors.

WaveCheck combines traditional ultrasound with new software to detect responses to chemotherapy in breast cancer tissues. By making better, more accurate information available about a woman’s response to her chemotherapy treatment in weeks rather than months, WaveCheck creates greater transparency through dialogue between a women and her doctors, empowering her to participate in discussions about whether a given chemotherapy treatment is effective.

Contribute to WaveCheck‘s Indiegogo campaign and help make this technology available to all women with breast cancer faster.

Media coverage: CTV News Channel, the Globe and Mail and Canadian Healthcare Technology have covered WaveCheck’s campaign.

Developed by Dr. Gregory Czarnota, chief of Radiation Oncology at Sunnybrook’s Odette Cancer Centre, and Michael C. Kolios, professor of Physics and Canada Research Chair in Biomedical Applications of Ultrasound at Ryerson, WaveCheck has been used in clinical studies with nearly 100 women receiving upfront, neoadjuvant chemotherapy to treat locally-advanced breast cancer. These results are published in two leading journals, Clinical Cancer Research and Translational Oncology.


In the Indiegogo campaign video, Czarnota, Kolios and three of the 100 women who participated in the first Sunnybrook study explain WaveCheck’s impact.

“The hard truth for women with breast cancer is that 60 to 70 per cent of chemotherapy treatments fail,” said Czarnota, who is also a senior scientist and director of cancer research at Sunnybrook Research Institute and assistant professor in the University of Toronto’s Departments of Radiation Oncology and Medical Biophysics within the Faculty of Medicine. “The 1.5 million women worldwide who will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year need to know that their chemotherapy is working as soon as possible. But this kind of treatment monitoring doesn’t currently exist in standard clinical practice. Instead, a woman’s tumour response is evaluated after she completes her chemotherapy treatment, which is typically a four- to six-month process.

“We believe that fast access to WaveCheck’s analysis could give women and their medical teams crucial insight into whether they’ve chosen an effective treatment much sooner and, eventually, give insight into whether to change her treatment if her tumour’s not responding.”

WaveCheck’s key benefits:

  • Helps to identify when a woman’s breast tumour is responding to chemotherapy.
  • Is completely painless for the woman.
  • Makes better information available faster—as early as one to four weeks into her treatment, long before the four to six months it typically takes to complete a course of chemotherapy and then see its resulting effect through magnetic resonance (MR) scans or computed tomography (CT) scans.
  • Reassures a woman when her treatment is working, and may help to reduce the understandable anxieties that come with taking chemotherapy.
  • Prompts better conversations between women and their medical teams about treatment decisions.
Artworks donated to the WaveCheck campaign by Canadian artists.

Artworks donated to the WaveCheck campaign by Canadian artists.

To make WaveCheck available to women everywhere as fast as possible, MaRS Innovation seeks to raise $96,987 on Indiegogo from October 9 to November 27, 2013 and get the first of three North American clinical study locations running in parallel with Sunnybrook’s existing data. The campaign’s overall goal is to raise $687,950 to fund all three sites with WaveCheck’s partners at Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto, Canada; London Health Sciences Centre in London, Canada; and MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, U.S.A.

“WaveCheck is in the last development stage in its journey from the laboratory to the clinic, which is also where funding becomes hardest to find,” said Dr. Raphael Hofstein, president and CEO of MaRS Innovation. “As WaveCheck’s commercialization agent, we provided $250,000 in seed funds along with business development and intellectual property protection to bring WaveCheck this far; it’s cleared the proof-of-principle and prototyping phases with flying colours. But successfully completing these parallel studies is crucial in proving WaveCheck’s data is replicable in any clinic, convincing other doctors to eventually adopt the technique, and accelerating the time it takes to bring it to clinics worldwide.”

“Sunnybrook was joined by many funding agencies and foundations to invest in the research underlying WaveCheck at much earlier stages,” said Dr. Michael Julius, vice-president, research, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. “This investment underscores that transformative research must be supported at all stages along the innovation pipeline if we are to get it to those who need it.”

Supporting agencies include:

Kolios holds a Canada Research Chair; Czarnota holds a Research Chair in Experimental Therapeutics and Imaging from Cancer Care Ontario.

“Sunnybrook and MaRS Innovation are building on this incredible support by earmarking an additional $75,000 for that first study site, which will be matched by the Indiegogo campaign donations,” said Julius.

“Together, we can help more women with breast cancer faster.”

“If these clinical studies replicate the early studies, we could use this technology to monitor tumor response early in treatment and to predict which patients will continue on in their therapy to have a complete pathological response,” said Wei Yang, M.D., professor of Diagnostic Imaging at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and clinician lead at the designated WaveCheck study site. “On the other hand, for patients in whom the test indicates a poor response to treatment, the regimen could be changed to a more efficacious one.”

WaveCheck’s Indiegogo campaign has received generous support from 12 artists across Canada and internationally, worth a combined total of over $15,000:

  • Nine members of the Toronto-based Women’s Art Association of Canada (WAAC) have donated 10 original pieces as perks for WaveCheck supporters to claim, including “Don’t Go Back to Sleep,” an original work commissioned in response to WaveCheck’s images and signed by the inventors.
  • Sonnet L’Abbé, Canadian poet and University of British Columbia lecturer, wrote and designed “the moment came when I knew my body,” a visual poem inspired by WaveCheck’s technology and available through the campaign perks as a poster.
  • Other donations include a lap quilt from St. John’s, Newfoundland and a painting by Victoria, British Columbia artist Ashlee Trcka, making the artistic contributions truly Canada-wide.
  • Internationally, WaveCheck has partnered with WorldWideBreastCancer.com to make their innovative educational materials available to supporters, continuing global education about the disease.

For more information about WaveCheck’s vibrant artistic support, see the Artists’ Profiles on WaveCheck.ca.

A FAQ is also available along with additional background, technical details and photos: wavecheck.ca.