Three ideas from around the world address anxiety management, online patient support and fatigue reduction.
By 2030, the global cancer burden is expected to grow to 22.2 million cancer cases.1 Despite significant advances in treatments and medicines, patients with cancer and their caregivers face significant obstacles and challenges on a day-to-day basis as they live with the disease. From learning how to navigate healthcare systems, following complex medical care schedules, coordinating care and learning how to live post-treatment, the life-changing news of a cancer diagnosis puts patients and their loved ones on a journey that can be full of twists and turns.
Mark Reisenauer, senior vice president at Astellas Oncology has experienced the cancer care journey firsthand. Losing his father to head and neck cancer brought to light the need for cancer care innovation beyond medical treatment. “When my father was diagnosed, we all knew that life would never be the same. What we didn’t know was exactly how much it would change,” said Reisenauer. “We had no idea how few tools and resources existed to help patients with cancer, and those who care for them, navigate the complicated journey that begins the moment you receive the news.”
Reisenauer’s experience inspired the launch of the Astellas Oncology C3 Prize, a global challenge designed to acknowledge the potential of non-medicine innovations to improve the cancer care experience for patients, caregivers and their loved ones. The challenge awarded three winners a total of $100,000 in grants from Astellas along with a membership to MATTER, a community of entrepreneurs, innovators and industry leaders working together to improve health and healthcare.
In its inaugural year, more than 100 patients, caregivers, healthcare providers and technology entrepreneurs from 15 countries around the world submitted innovations to potentially change cancer care. Out of these submissions, five finalists pitched their ideas live at Medicine X, a major health technology conference, in front of a panel of judges including Reisenauer and Robert Herjavec, star of the Emmy Award-winning U.S. television show, Shark Tank and Canada’s Dragon’s Den. Like Reisenauer, Herjavec has a personal connection to cancer through his experience caring for his mother, who died of ovarian cancer in 2007. This experience drove his choice to partner with Astellas Oncology as a judge for the C3 Prize.
“I know, from personal experience, the daily challenges faced by those affected by cancer,” said Herjavec. “I also know, from professional experience, the power and impact technology can make on improving lives. The C3 Prize finalists and winners represent this intersection of personal connection, creativity and tenacity.”
The winners, announced at the European Society of Medical Oncology (ESMO) conference in Copenhagen on Oct. 7, 2016, each offer innovations that serve patients and caregivers at times when they most need support.
Grand Prize winner Diane Jooris, from Brussels, Belgium is co-founder of Oncomfort™, a company that develops virtual reality (VR) modules designed to help manage anxiety in cancer patients before, during and after treatment. Oncomfort will receive a $50,000 grant from Astellas.
“When I was taking care of my younger sister Mathilde, I saw how difficult it was for her to manage the stress that built up over the weeks of her breast cancer treatment. Over time, the constant stress led to extreme anxiety and a feeling of helplessness that led her to question whether the treatment process was worth it,” Jooris said. “Oncomfort leverages virtual reality technology to help train patients in stress management techniques, give them easy-to-understand information, and help them feel more in control, calm and comfortable.”
First place winner Mark Harrison of North Melbourne, Australia is chief executive officer of Australian Prostate Cancer Research, whose interactive online system, PROSTMATE™, provides community clinical connections for patients with prostate cancer across rural, regional and remote areas. Harrison will receive a $25,000 grant from Astellas.
Another First place winner is Larry Pederson of Seattle, Washington who is the founder and director of The Litebook® Company, which has developed a portable light therapy device for use as a simple tool to reduce fatigue and potentially increase quality of life for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. Pederson will receive a $25,000 grant from Astellas.
Reisenauer is thrilled with the submissions received for the inaugural C3 Prize. “We launched the program because we wanted to hear bright ideas and perspectives from people who want to make a difference in the lives of those living with cancer,” he said. “Each of the winning innovations represents a tremendous opportunity to improve patient and caregiver lives. This is what drives the Astellas Oncology team every day.”
- Bray F, Jemal A, Grey N, Ferlay J, Forman D. Global cancer transitions according to the Human Development Index (2008-2030): a population based study. Lancet Oncol. 2012;13: 790-801.