April 2, 2006

Video game helps young people blast cancer

By Lisa Baertlein

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Saif Azar, a 14-year-old video game
fan, said a new title called "Re-Mission" helped arm him with
the knowledge of how to fight cancer after he was diagnosed
with Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2003.

"It was perfect, actually. It helped me understand the
things that were going on in my body," said Azar, who started
playing the game as part of a clinical study and continues
playing today as he wraps up his treatments.

Roxxi, the main character in "Re-Mission," is a gutsy,
fully-armed "Nanobot" who seeks out and destroys cancer cells
throughout the body.

HopeLab, the game's maker, said the results from its
scientific study involving 375 teen and young adults at 34
medical centers in the United States, Canada and Australia
showed that young people who played "Re-Mission" were more
likely to stick to their medication regimens than those who did

Palo Alto, California-base HopeLab is a nonprofit
organization that helps young people deal with chronic
illnesses. It was founded in 2001 by board chair Pamela
Omidyar, wife of eBay Inc. founder and Chairman Pierre Omidyar.

The results showed that the game helped players feel
empowered to confront the challenge posed by their illness,
which made them more likely to take their medicine -- and more
likely to get better, said HopeLab President Pat Christen.

"We approached the study in the same way and with the same
rigor that we would with a new drug," she said.

HopeLab targeted teens and young adults because their
health outcomes tend not to be as good as younger and older
groups, she said.

"There is an assumption that they're doing what they're
supposed to be doing and they're not monitored as closely,"
Christen said.

The PC game is immediately available, free of charge, to
teens and young people diagnosed with cancer. It will be widely
available on May 1 for a suggested donation of $20.