WVU researcher says video game helps teens with cancer

‘Re-Mission’ study published in Pediatrics

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – It seemed like mission impossible.  How could behavioral medicine researchers remind teenage cancer patients to take their medications and learn about their disease?  The answer came in the form of a new computer game: Re-Mission.

Andrew Bradlyn, Ph.D., co-director of the West Virginia University Health Research Center, worked with a research team to create a video game that would lead to better health outcomes for adolescent cancer patients.  The results of their efforts are published in the August issue of Pediatrics.

According to Bradlyn, the team wanted to create a fun and energetic game that everyone would want to play – whether they had cancer or not.

“We’re helping these patients to feel empowered,” Bradlyn, professor of behavioral medicine, said.  “They’re battling cancer every day in their real lives.  In the video game they can conquer it while learning about their disease.”

The game, developed by HopeLab, focuses on the behavioral and psychological aspects of successful cancer treatment.  In Re-Mission, the player becomes a microscopic robot named Roxxi.  Roxxi travels through the bodies of fictional cancer patients, annihilating cancer cells and battling the side effects of treatment. 

In 2001, Bradlyn began collaborating with the study’s principal investigator, Pam Kato, Ph.D., and co-author Brad Pollock, Ph.D.  It’s the largest study of a video game intervention ever completed. 

The study followed three months of cancer treatment for 375 teens and young adults at 34 medical centers.  The centers were located in the United States, Canada and Australia. 

The study showed that participants who used Re-Mission maintained higher levels of chemotherapy in their blood and took their antibiotics more consistently than patients not playing Re-Mission.   Re-Mission patients were also quicker to pick up on cancer-related knowledge than the control group. 

“This game appeals to a younger generation,” Bradlyn said. “They don’t just have to imagine a situation where they’re controlling their cancer – Re-Mission lets them act it out through Roxxi.”

More than 125,000 copies of the game have been distributed in 80 countries to cancer patients ages 13 to 29.  The game is free to cancer patients and can be downloaded or ordered at www.re-mission.net.  Donations are appreciated from non-cancer patients who download the game. 

For more information about the Health Research Center at the WVU School of Medicine, visit http://www.hsc.wvu.edu/som/hrc/.










For more information:
Cassie Waugh, HSC News Service, (304) 293-7087
cw: 08-06-08

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