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Moffitt Cancer Center and Ringling College present new developments in virtual reality, gamification for MR-guided radiotherapy

Press releases may be edited for formatting or style | October 15, 2021 MRI Rad Oncology
Sarasota and Tampa, FL – October 14, 2021 – Ringling College of Art and Design and Moffitt Cancer Center today presented an update on new developments from their collaborative INDEX Virtual Reality project to enhance the cancer patient experience and improve the accuracy of MRI-guided Radiation Therapy (MRgRT). The Moffitt/Ringling College partnership began in 2019 to explore the creation of meaningful digital technologies to help decrease stress and enhance understanding for newly diagnosed patients during their journey, and discover new ways in which to train and coach patients through diagnosis and treatment.

“Patient stress levels at the time of a cancer diagnosis are very high, and core to addressing some of that stress is reducing fear of the unknown. In my practice, we need to deliver highly precise treatment so patient cooperation is essential. To be able to deliver immersive content through VR headsets can serve to alleviate some of that stress by allowing a new patient to virtually walk-through the experience before beginning their treatment,” said program visionary Sarah Hoffe, M.D., Moffitt Cancer Center’s section head of Gastrointestinal Radiation Oncology.

“This summer we explored using gamification and virtual reality to improve patient relaxation and stillness while undergoing tightly-focused and targeted MRgRT,” continued Dr. Hoffe. “We started exploring how to train patients to control their breathing with Ringling College VR Interim Department Head Morgan Woolverton, VR Faculty Marty Murphy, VR Program Advisor Jeff Hazelton, and the VR Program student chosen for this application development, Joseph Janssen. We collaborated on this project with many faculty and staff at Moffitt as well, including Ted Schilowitz who is a member of our national Board of Advisors and also a futurist at Paramount Pictures in Hollywood and our physicist Kujtim Latifi PhD. Importantly, we also benefited from our two patient advisors whose insights were critical to development.”

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“We worked with Dr. Hoffe and the team to identify areas in which VR could make a significant difference in improving treatment outcomes, and one we focused on was how to train patients to hold their breath and be still and calm during an MRI Linear Accelerator cancer treatment,” said Ringling College Virtual Reality Development senior Joseph Janssen.

“As the patient breathes in and out during MRI radiation therapy, a tumor and surrounding healthy tissues can shift in position, so it’s very important to encourage patient stillness and train them in holding their breath during the beam activity. To make the tech applicable to all, especially patients unfamiliar with VR, we gamified the process and simplified the control inputs so that one controller is fastened to their chests – to monitor breathing – and the patient uses the integral headset laser to select simplified menu options to explore the mechanics and train in the breathing game. And, while undergoing treatment they are also able to choose from calming scenarios we developed to assist in relaxation during the breath-holding period,” Joseph concluded.

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