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Video Game Helps Cancer Patients Stick To Meds

August 6, 2008

According to a recent report in the journal Pediatrics, a specially designed video game can now help adolescent cancer patients stick their prescribed treatments more closely.

“Targeted video games can help improve the lives of young people with cancer, most importantly improve their adherence to their treatment,” said Dr. Pamela M. Kato, the study’s lead author.

In the report, Kato sites adherence as a major problem in the adolescent age group.  Death rates in this group have not seen improvements in survival, while dramatic improvements have been seen among pediatric patients. 

“They’re kind of a tough group that gets a little bit lost in the system,” Kato said.

Researchers set up an experiment to see if video games could impact the problem.  In the study, researchers assigned 375 male and female patients 13-29 years old to play “Indiana Jones and the Emperor’s Tomb,” a standard video game, or “Re-Mission,” a game built around fighting cancer cells.

HopeLab in Redwood City, California, developed Re-Mission, a game where players control a robot called Roxxi who blasts cancer cells.  Players move around in a 3-D environment representing the body of a cancer patient.  To win the game, players must take chemotherapy drugs, antibiotics, use relaxation techniques, and keep up with self-care.

Both groups were asked to play their video game at least an hour per week.  Over the 3-month study, nearly a third of the Re-Mission group actually did so, while only 22 percent of the Indiana Jones group did.

The results also showed that the Re-Mission group’s antibiotic adherence grew by 16 percent.  The group took 62.5 percent of their total medications, while the second group only took 52.5 percent.  The Re-Mission group also took a standard chemotherapy drug at a higher rate.

The researchers also noted that playing Re-Mission also led to improvements in cancer-related knowledge.

According to Kato, the game enforced the idea of chemo as cancer fighter rather than an annoyance. 

“To me it was kind of changing their reward system for taking chemo and giving them a different insight,” she explained
Patients and medical professionals can download Re-Mission for free at www2.re-mission.net.

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