VR for Chronic Cancer Pain Control – Results Summary

We’re thrilled to share the results of our years-long clinical trial in using immersive multimedia as an adjunctive measure for managing chronic cancer pain. This journey has been one of dedication, persistence, and teamwork, and today marks a significant milestone. Our goal was to empower people living with and beyond cancer with new tools that suit their needs and we’re proud to present the culmination of our efforts. This achievement wouldn’t have been possible without the collaboration of researchers, clinicians, and participants who shared our vision.

As we release these results, we look forward to the positive impact they may have in supporting further cancer care and chronic pain research. The final journal report has now been published in BMC Digital Health and is available here, and a lay-person summary is provided below.

We would like to formally thank the John & Lotte Hecht Foundation for their support of this work. KT – Poster Summary v1.1

Sapporo Conference for Palliative and Supportive Cancer in 2023 Presentation

As our clinical trial has wrapped up, we have begun the data analysis process and presented some interim results at the 3rd and 4th Sapporo Conference for Palliative and Supportive Care in Cancer 2023. 

The Sapporo Conference brought about international researchers on the topics of palliative oncology and psycho-oncology. With advances in cancer treatments, the number of patients who continue their daily lives while receiving cancer treatments is increasing. This provides an opportunity for greater collaboration between technology and palliative oncology, particularly in dealing with cancer symptoms and adverse events associated with cancer treatments.

Our research was presented by our Principal Investigator Dr. Bernie Garrett at this conference and can be accessed here.

Full findings of our results will be coming shortly and will be published on the blog once available.

Canadian Pain Society Annual Scientific Meeting Presentation

We had the pleasure of attending the Canadian Pain Society Annual Scientific Meeting in Montreal in May, 2022.

Henry Fu, a PhD student from Simon Fraser University presented our poster titled “Chronic Pain Management in Cancer: An exploratory analysis of electroencephalograph activity during virtual reality pain distraction therapy“.

It was a great opportunity to meet leading industry researchers, health professionals and patient partners. Of particular interest was the session on the new approaches in the treatment of neuropathic pain and current approaches in examining individual differences in pain response using neuro-imaging.

Full book of abstract can be found on the Canadian Pain Society website for those interested.

Virtual Reality–Guided Meditation for Chronic Pain in Patients With Cancer: Exploratory Analysis of Electroencephalograph Activity

Our paper on VR-guided meditation and its effects on electroencephalograph (EEG) activity is now published and available to be viewed online at JMIR Biomedical Engineering journal.

A summary of what the purpose of this part of the research was summarized in an earlier blog post.  Thanks again to Dr. Teresa Cheung and Henry Fu from the SFU School of Engineering Sciences for partnering with us on this research.

The link to the paper is here: https://biomedeng.jmir.org/2021/2/e26332

Key Takeaways:

  • Findings suggest that distinct altered neurophysiological brain signals are detectable during VR-guided meditation, predominantly in terms of an increase in the power of the β and γ bands.
  • Changes in the α and θ bands were also identified, predominantly as a pattern in VR-guided meditation compared with the resting baseline, possibly reflecting the specific impact of visual activity during VR-guided meditation.
  • Some changes in coherence were also observed between the frontal and parietal and occipital cortices during VR-guided meditation. No significant association between pain scores and changes in EEG signals was observed.
  • Although this is an exploratory study, the results of this work clearly demonstrate the feasibility of EEG recording and subsequent data processing and analysis during VR experiences in patients using modern VR head-mounted displays. 

Please feel free to click the link above and happy reading!

Immersive virtual reality health games: a narrative review of game design

Game design plays a central role in games for health. We reviewed literature presenting head-mounted display VR games specifically designed as health applications and looked at how game design has been implemented and discussed in research.

Key Takeaways:

  • Most address health contexts related to physical exercise, motor rehabilitation, and pain
  • Mechanics are typically based on obstacles, challenges, and extrinsic reward systems
  • Narrative experiences and non-physical exercise interventions were less common
  • Overall discourse on game design lags behind what’s seen in more games industry-related spaces

Find out more from our recently published article (open access) on the Journal of Neuroengineering and Rehabilitation here:

Adapting to the Pandemic Context

This year has been quite demanding in terms of adapting to new circumstances. However, it’s also been a circumstance that has seen many people adopt new technologies, from teleconference to XR apps. Here are a few interesting new XR for health applications that have been aimed at addressing pandemic-related challenges:

The Rehabilitation Robotics Lab at the University of Alberta has created an AR app to help Canadians manage mental health during COVID-19.

Virtual training applications for healthcare workers has also seen an upsurge. Here’s an example from SFU SIAT. Another has been created by Motive for PPE donning and doffing.

Certainly, there has been a new wave of papers advocating for the benefits of augmented and virtual reality applications in health during the pandemic.

Could Virtual Reality play a role in the rehabilitation after COVID-19 infection?

Telemedicine and Virtual Reality for Cognitive Rehabilitation: A Roadmap for the COVID-19 Pandemic

Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and Video Games for Addressing the Impact of COVID-19 on Mental Health

Perhaps the widespread need to adapt with digital tools in lieu of regular in-person practice during this time will accelerate future development and adoption of a whole ecosystem of health-related XR applications.

Update on Electroencephalography (EEG) Sub-study

We wanted to provide an update to all blog readers on the progress of our study.

Over the summer, we have finished conducting the analysis for a pilot study on the effect of VR-guided meditation on brain waves using the electroencephalograph (EEG). Our main objective in this sub-study is explore if VR-guided meditation exposure has any specifically identifiable characteristics on the neurological activity in the brain through an EEG scan. We enrolled ten participants who had positive experience as a part of the VR arm of the main clinical trial. Participants undertook an EEG brainwave scan, whilst undertaking a VR experience in their home under the supervision of a trained research assistant.

We partnered with Dr. Teresa Cheung, a physicist and medical imaging scientist, from the Simon Fraser University’s ImageTech lab, for this portion of the study. As this was the first use of EEG recording with patients using VR for pain management, this required the use of novel experimental and analytical approaches, as well as a significant amount of data cleaning and pre-processing prior to analysis, and the use of multiple statistical analytics.

The study data analysis has now concluded and we have finalized a paper for publication in November, 2020. Once this study is published, we will share our findings of the published paper on our blog. We hope you will look forward to reading this paper once it is in the press!

Patients perceptions of virtual reality therapy in the management of chronic cancer pain

We conducted two mini focus groups addressing the topics of participants’ experiences and perceptions of the use of VR in August, 2018 and March, 2019.  The results from the focus groups have now been published.

Key Takeaways:

  • We found five major thematic categories and 23 sub-categories emerged in the analysis process reflecting the participants’ narrative.
  • Similar to other research, we found mixed results in the use of adjunctive VR therapy to manage chronic cancer pain, although a majority of respondents found it to be beneficial.
  • Our results confirm that pain management is a highly complex and individualized process. For maximum efficacy, it is recommended that future designs of VR interventions engage pain patients in the design process to ensure maximum efficacy of experiences to with individuals’ preferences.

The article is published in an open-access journal and is available for your viewing here: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2405844020307611

We hope you enjoy the article!

Burnaby surgeon uses virtual reality to teach medical residents

During this uncertain time, non-essential surgeries like knee and hip replacements are on hold. And so is the hands-on training for surgical residents in the orthopedics program at the University of British Columbia.

But those residents will soon be able to practise doing surgeries using Precision OS, a cutting-edge virtual reality program created by Dr. Danny Goel, an orthopedic surgeon at Burnaby General Hospital. The technology is already being used by orthopaedic residents at the University of Connecticut, and will roll out at UBC in mid-May.

To read more about this exciting new development in VR use in medical education, visit the link to the full story published on CTV news here.

We are certainly looking forward to all the ways VR can be used to advance medical education both during and perhaps after we return to the “new normal”.


Immersion in virtual reality scenes of the Arctic helps to ease people’s pain

Scientists from Imperial College London have found that using virtual reality headsets could combat increased sensitivity to pain, by immersing people in scenes of icebergs, frigid oceans and sprawling icescapes.

According to the researchers, the findings add to the growing evidence for the potential of VR technology to help patients with chronic pain.

Beyond the distracting effect, they think immersing patients in VR may actually trigger the body’s own inbuilt pain-fighting systems — reducing their sensitivity to painful stimuli and reducing the intensity of ongoing pain.

For more information, please see below:

Sam W. Hughes, Hongyan Zhao, Edouard J. Auvinet, Paul H. Strutton. Attenuation of capsaicin-induced ongoing pain and secondary hyperalgesia during exposure to an immersive virtual reality environmentPAIN Reports, 2019; 1 DOI: 10.1097/PR9.0000000000000790