National Cancer Institute, AppliedVR to Explore VR to Relieve Cancer Patients' Anxiety

Samara Rosenfeld
NOVEMBER 06, 2019
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Photo/Thumb have been modified. Courtesy of Shutterstock / vectorfusionart.

The National Cancer Institute and AppliedVR today announced a collaboration agreement to evaluate virtual reality (VR) as a solution to address the anxiety of patients with terminal cancer.

The study is being led by Neuro-Oncology branch of the Center for Cancer Research at the National Cancer Institute and will enroll patients from a variety of National Cancer Institute cancer centers, among other cancer practices. Researchers will evaluate AppliedVR’s system on neuro-oncology patients’ “scanxiety,” which describes the anxiety a patient with cancer experiences before or after diagnostic scans.

“We firmly believe virtual reality therapeutics have the potential to positively impact the lives of millions of people,” said Matthew Stoudt, MBA, CEO and co-founder of AppliedVR. “Results of this study could further demonstrate virtual reality as a promising modality for other serious health conditions, specifically amplify the importance of virtual reality treatments for behavioral health conditions.”

Anxiety and depression are highly prevalent in patients with cancer, according to research published in the journal Supportive Care in Cancer. But there is room for VR to play a role in alleviating symptoms.

“Virtual reality therapeutics are an effective and non-pharmacologic way to potentially treat anxiety, acute and chronic pain and many other mental and behavioral health conditions,” said Beth Darnall, Ph.D., chief science advisor of AppliedVR. “Pairing our technology and deep expertise in therapeutic VR development and design with (National Cancer Institute’s) leading expertise in oncology could offer a specialized solution to cancer patients who suffer from anxiety.”

Currently deployed in more than 200 hospitals, AppliedVR said its VR technology includes clinically validated content to help patients in several different hospital units cope with stress and feelings of anxiety.

At the end of October, AppliedVR announced it was awarded two multi-year grants totaling more than $2.9 million from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to study VR as a tool to reduce opioid use for patients with chronic pain. 

Similar to AppliedVR, XRHealth’s VR technology has helped patients experiencing discomfort due to cancer conditions. And Karuna Labs is using VR to help patients manage chronic pain without the need for opioid pain relief or invasive surgeries.

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