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Virtual reality may soon be used to treat cancer patients who are recovering from stem cell procedures.
Healthcare technology company Rocket VR Health—in partnership with Massachusetts General Hospital—is developing a virtual reality (VR) therapy that intends to enhance the quality of life of cancer patients who receive stem cell transplants.
Specifically, the therapy is intended to help with distress management in blood cancer patients undergoing blood stem cell transplantation (HCT) in an in-clinic setting. HCT (short for hematopoietic cell transplantation) can be used to treat certain types of cancer, such as leukemia, myeloma, and lymphoma, and other blood and immune system diseases that affect the bone marrow.
The average hospital length of stay for patients with hematologic malignancies—cancers that start in blood forming tissues such as bone marrow—who undergo HCT is typically 28 days. During the hospitalization period, patients can’t leave their rooms as their immune system is weakened while their bone marrow is re-generated.
As contact with the outside world is limited during recovery, patients may endure significant short-term and long-term distress that affects their physical and psychological well-being.
The treatment being developed consists of psychoeducation, therapy, and relaxation exercises in a VR environment designed to be self-administered by patients. The immersive environment aims to give patients access to the outside world virtually while being confined to their hospital room.
It is reported that patients who receive integrated psychological interventions during their hospital stays have fewer depression and PTSD symptoms than those who receive standard transplant care alone.
Rocket VR Health hopes to create a therapy that hospitals and health systems can offer to patients using clinically validated therapies over fully-immersive virtual reality to make psychosocial care more accessible and effective.