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Trial looks at monitoring chemotherapy and altering treatment in breast cancer patients

September 23, 2019

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Scientists and oncologists can now monitor breast cancer patients’ treatments to see whose chemotherapy is working and alter treatment plans if it is not, in a new trial at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.

Using WaveCheck – a non-invasive monitoring system co-invented at Sunnybrook – researchers are able to see if chemotherapy is successfully killing cancer cells and can now work with oncologists to stop or alter treatment.

WaveCheck uses ultrasound imaging and new software to detect cell death just hours after chemotherapy treatment starts. The validation study, which was published in September 2017, included 100 women and used WaveCheck to monitor breast cancer tumour cell death after one week and four weeks of chemotherapy treatment. The ultrasound imaging analysis helped predict the tumour’s response to the chemotherapy treatment accurately in 80 per cent of the women.

In the new randomized trial, researchers and physicians use the WaveCheck system to monitor the treatment one and four weeks after treatment starts in some women.

“It is a tool to see if the chemotherapy is working,” said Dr. Greg Czarnota, radiation oncologist, co-inventor of WaveCheck and study lead. “If the chemotherapy is working and we can see cell death, we know we are on the right track and you are receiving effective treatment. If the chemotherapy is not working, this opens up the option to make changes to the treatment plan much sooner rather than continuing on that course of chemotherapy.”

In this phase of the trial, researchers can share WaveCheck’s results with the oncologist and patient — so that the chemotherapy treatment can be further altered after four weeks of a 16-18 week course of chemotherapy.

Other women participating in the trial receive the current standard of care.