A Ryerson physics professor is behind an online crowd-funding crusade to fund a technology that will advance the treatment of breast cancer.
Michael Kolios and Gregory Czarnota, an oncologist at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, are using an Indiegogo campaign to spread the word and stimulate funding for three locations that will perform clinical studies on their brainchild project, WaveCheck.
The device is a painless, non-surgical technique that can detect whether a patient is responding to chemotherapy less than four weeks into the treatment, instead of the usual four to six months.
“The device uses ultrasound, the same type of ultrasound to image babies, in a special type of way to see cell death,” Kolios said. “In essence, it compares cell death to before and after (chemo) treatments to see if there is a change and if the patient is responding.”
The simple procedure turns the device red if the chemo treatment is not working and turns yellow if the patient is responding to treatment.
Kolios and Czarnota conceived the idea for WaveCheck in 1994 while they were graduate students at the University of Toronto.
In a class debate detailing whether ultrasounds machines could show the effects of heat on cells, Czarnota argued that ultrasounds could also determine cell death, specifically with chemotherapy drugs.
While one student believed it was not possible, Czarnota and Kolios were determined that there was only one way to find out: research.
The project is in its 19th year and nearly 100 women with locally advanced breast cancer have already used WaveCheck in clinical studies conducted at Sunnybrook.
In an effort to make WaveCheck available to women everywhere, the research duo has teamed with MaRS Innovation to raise $96,987 in seven weeks, from Oct. 9 to Nov. 27. The campaign’s overall goal is to raise $687,950 with other WaveCheck sponsors and partners.
“This is for a disease that is very relatable; people get the need and the urgency. While chemotherapy can have beneficial effects, in terms of disease, it’s also very hard on the body,” said Elizabeth Monier-Williams, co-director of the WaveCheck campaign.
The money raised will go into creating the first three clinical study locations in North America: Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto, the London Health Sciences Centre in London, Ont., and the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas.
At publication time, $30,417 had been raised.
This story was first published in The Ryersonian, a weekly newspaper produced by the Ryerson School of Journalism, on October 23, 2013.