Cigna Corp. said on Wednesday it will offer HopeLab’s “Re-Mission” video game, which lets teens and young adults blast cancer while learning how to improve the odds of beating the disease, free of charge on its Web site.
“’Re-Mission’ has demonstrated that video games have the power to help teenagers better adhere to their cancer treatment and embrace key behaviors that improve their health and quality of life,” Dr. Glenn Pomerantz, medical director of its CIGNA HealthCare unit, said in a statement.
Teenaged cancer patients can face a unique set of challenges, medical experts said. They are old enough to be responsible for their treatment, but may be too young to understand the potentially deadly consequences of skipping required medications that may make them feel sick, lose their hair, get acne, or gain weight.
Pam Omidyar, a medical researcher married to eBay Inc. founder Pierre Omidyar, launched HopeLab in 2001, seeking to improve the health of young people with a mix of good science and fun technology.
HopeLab, a Northern California-based nonprofit organization, teamed with video game developers and animators, cancer experts, cell biologists, psychologists and young patients, seeking to make a high-quality video game that would educate as well as entertain.
The results was “Re-Mission,” a teen-rated shooting game featuring a nanobot named Roxxi who roams inside the bodies of fictional cancer patients, destroying cancer cells, battling bacterial infections and managing side effects associated with cancer and cancer treatments.
Since the game’s launch early last year, HopeLab said it has delivered 76,000 copies of “Re-Mission” on disc or via download on its Web site.
Cigna’s site will also offer the game.
HopeLab tested “Re-Mission” in a randomized, controlled trial of 375 male and female cancer patients aged 13 to 29, who were enrolled at 34 medical centers in the United States, Canada and Australia.
Preliminary study results suggested that playing the video game increased quality of life and cancer-related knowledge.
The “Re-Mission” players also maintained levels of chemotherapy in their blood and showed higher rates of antibiotic use than those in the control group, indicating that the game helped patients stick to cancer therapy regimens.
“The ’Re-Mission’ video game is an important tool to help improve their understanding of cancer, its treatments and effects, which can result in more confidence in their ability to deal with the disease and more consistent compliance with their treatment,” said Dr. Gary Dahl, a pediatric oncologist at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford University in California and a principal investigator for the “Re-Mission” study.
“’Re-Mission’ works. It gives young people with cancer a sense of power and control over their disease,” HopeLab President Pat Christen said.
Cigna’s Pomerantz said the insurer plans to work with HopeLab to help young patients with other chronic conditions.