AppliedVR, NCI to evaluate VR as a solution to help address cancer-related anxiety

The proof-of-concept study will evaluate AppliedVR's system on scanxiety - the anxiety patients experience before or after medical diagnostics scans.

VR in healthcare

AppliedVR has teamed-up with the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), to evaluate virtual reality (VR) as a solution to help address the underlying anxiety often experienced by many patients with terminal cancer. The study, which is being led by the Neuro-Oncology Branch (NOB), Center for Cancer Research (CCR), NCI, will enroll patients from many NCI-designated cancer centers and other cancer practices.

“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,” Dr. Beth Darnall, chief science advisor of AppliedVR, said in a statement. “Pairing our technology and deep expertise in therapeutic VR development and design with NCI’s leading expertise in oncology could offer a specialized solution to cancer patients who suffer from anxiety.”

With anxiety being one of the most common psychological problems among cancer patients, extreme stress as a result of the initial cancer diagnosis can negatively result in a patient’s inability to function in their normal life. The proof-of-concept study will evaluate AppliedVR’s VR system on neuro-oncology patients’ “scanxiety,” a term used to describe the anxiety patients with cancer experience before or after medical diagnostics scans. NCI will provide clinical expertise related to the care and management of patients with central nervous system tumors, and collect biospecimens and patient outcomes reports to perform correlative studies as companion work to the feasibility study.

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

If outcomes of the Phase 1 study are positive, AppliedVR and NCI will collaborate on a Phase 2, multi-site study to assess the use of AppliedVR’s headsets to treat anxiety in a brain tumor patient population.