GE collaborates with Canadian hospital on ultrasound tech for monitoring breast cancer

GE Healthcare ($GE) is co-developing a novel ultrasound device to diagnose the effectiveness of chemotherapy in breast cancer patients developed by a hospital affiliated with the University of Toronto.

The WaveCheck uses ultrasound visualization to determine whether a breast cancer tumor is responding to chemotherapy in as a little as one week, compared to the four to six months patients typically wait to find out if the tumor is responding to therapy, says Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center, a teaching hospital of the University of Toronto.

"We are pleased to welcome GE to our existing international and government partners, notably MD Anderson Cancer Center, MaRS Innovation and the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research," said Dr. Michael Julius, Sunnybrook's vice president of research, in a statement. "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."

The deal with GE Healthcare was brokered by MaRS Innovation, the commercialization agent of 15 Canadian universities and healthcare institutions.

"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," said MaRS CEO Dr. Raphael Hofstein in a statement.

Recent research has shown that ultrasound is an effective and inexpensive method of diagnosing breast cancer. A study based on data spanning four years found that adding ultrasound to the mammography-based screening paradigm resulted in catching an extra 3.2 cancers per 1,000 women.

A clinical study of 20 American and 20 Canadian women will help researchers determine whether the WaveCheck's ultrasound can be of clinical value in women who already have breast cancer. Earlier knowledge of tumor response would lead to personalized medicine based on an individual's reaction to chemotherapy, the companies say in a release.

As partnerships like this one demonstrate, GE Healthcare is best known for its imaging products. The division pulled in about $5.1 billion last year, with healthcare equipment orders of medical devices like the E10 Voluson women's health ultrasound system up 17%.

Also in September, GE collaborated with pharma bigwig GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) to establish a network of clinical laboratories to identify genetic mutations associated with specific tumor types. The deal is expected to lead to a lab and data analytics subscription-based service through GE's Clarient Diagnostic Services.

- read the release