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Strides forward in machine intelligence, big data analytics, graphical and computing capabilities are driving the development of new devices for oncology screening, diagnosis and mental wellbeing. pharmaphorum’s Marco Ricci presents the ideas of five companies leading the next generation of innovation.

Oncomfort

Oncomfort provides a virtual reality (VR)-based psychological intervention therapy to people with cancer, using clinical hypnosis, primarily.

It works by immersing users in a virtual world and delivers psychological treatments for stress and anxiety, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), mindfulness, and exposure therapy. It also presents information about procedures, educating the patient on the exact nature and effect of a cancer therapy.

Oncomfort was born after co-founders Joowon Kim and Diane Jooris met when Jooris was working at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, trying to develop an effective tool to lower cancer patient anxiety.

Having developed a set of audio recordings of psychological sessions, Jooris found they were not as effective as she had hoped.

“The addition of VR was the final piece of the puzzle for me,” Jooris explains. “At that point, I’d realised I’d created an effective, complementary, self-management solution that could be delivered at home via an affordable headset.”

The device is backed by 20 years of research, according to Jooris, which shows psychological influence in cancer treatment effectiveness:

“State of mind plays a huge role in the function of a number of different biological factors, from the immune system to cancer biology itself.”

Since its founding in 2015, Oncomfort has been recognised by US pharma company Astellas through its C3 Grand Prize – an award reserved for the most innovative, new, non-medicine-based cancer therapies.

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