New technology designed to test the effectiveness of chemotherapy treatments within weeks, rather than months, is showing positive results as it undergoes preliminary clinical testing.

Developed in Canada, WaveCheck is an experimental ultrasound that can see what’s happening inside a tumour during chemotherapy by taking information from ultrasound scanners.

A trial has shown that the technology can show as early as one to four weeks whether the prescribed chemotherapy drugs are killing the cancer cells, said Dr. Gregory Czarnota, chief of radiation oncology at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto.

One hundred women with “large, aggressive” breast tumours were recruited for the study, Czarnota told CTV News Channel in a recent interview.

“Within that 100 women, we know with the sensitivity and specificity of over 95 per cent what the ultimate outcome of their chemotherapy is going to be between one to four weeks,” he said.

“This now allows us to tailor treatments on the basis of whether a tumour is responding or not, and to know very quickly, within weeks, whether that indeed, is the case.”

Research is now being extended to multiple sites in the Greater Toronto Area.

Karen Ford, who was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer, participated in the WaveCheck trial, and didn’t have to wait as long to discover the effectiveness of the chemotherapy on her disease.

“Why would you put somebody through six rounds of chemo, if it’s not working,” she told CTV News.

The technology made enduring the side effects of chemotherapy bearable, Ford said.

“It’s like, ok, give me whatever you’ve got to give me, because if I know it’s working, I can do this,” she said.

Wave Check had already undergone 15 to 18 years of pre-clinical lab research, said Czarnota, but obtaining money for more studies was a slow and frustrating process.

Researchers chose to go beyond traditional funding options by asking the public for help via Indiegogo, a website that raises funds through crowdsourcing.

In what could pave the way for more scientists to turn to public donations, the online campaign raised nearly $53,400 for research.

With a report from Medical Specialist Avis Favaro and producer Elizabeth St. Philip