The University of Southern California (USC) Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center has partnered with Springbok Cares to provide a unique Virtual Reality (VR) initiative for patients in the Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Cancer program at USC (AYA@USC). The patient initiative is designed to provide a library of curated cinematic and interactive VR experiences using the most advanced media technology available to lessen discomfort and anxiety with quality escapist entertainment.

“The AYA@USC program aims to heal the whole person, not just the cancer,” said David Freyer, DO, MS, professor of clinical pediatrics and medicine at Keck Medicine of USC and co-director of AYA@USC. “The Virtual Reality Patient Initiative will provide an important emotional benefit to our patients that cannot be achieved through medicine alone.”

The Virtual Reality Patient Initiative pilot program will commence this fall for a three-month period for both ambulatory outpatients and non-ambulatory inpatients. Springbok Cares will provide the VR equipment, content library and program staff at no cost to USC Norris or the patients. USC Norris clinical staff will approve and supervise the use of the equipment to ensure patient safety. Through Springbok Cares’ partnerships with a wide variety of content providers and sponsors, the program will be financially self-sustaining with an ever-growing curated library.

“In addition to an enriched patient experience, the Virtual Reality Patient Initiative may provide tangible clinical benefits to our young cancer patients,” said James Hu, MD, assistant professor of medicine at Keck Medicine of USC and co-director of AYA@USC. Research has demonstrated the benefit of VR technology for a variety of medical, psychological and educational challenges, including reducing side effects and fatigue in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy treatments. Cancer patients with access to VR experiences had improved emotional well-being and fewer negative psychological symptoms.

“As a parent of a cancer survivor, I am extremely excited to be partnering with USC Norris’ Comprehensive Cancer Center and Keck School of Medicine on this ground-breaking program,” said Steven-Charles Jaffe, chief operations officer of Springbok Entertainment. “Having lived with my daughter at a hospital during her battle with cancer, I personally know there is a void in healthy escapist entertainment for patients that this program will fulfill. VR technology’s ability to virtually transport a patient out of the confinement of a hospital bed or chemotherapy session is not only beneficial, but critical for a positive patient experience.”

AYA cancers represent all cancer types in individuals who are between 15 and 39 years old. In the United States, cancer is the leading disease-related cause of death for AYA patients. More than 70,000 people in this age group are diagnosed with cancer each year, including more than 4,000 in the Los Angeles basin.

“The primary goal of AYA@USC is to deliver a unique model of world-class care to the full spectrum of AYA cancer patients, a population with specific clinical, psychological and social needs,” said Stuart Siegel, MD, co-founder of AYA@USC.

Springbok Cares is a non-profit corporation that brings technology and curated media to healthcare facilities to enhance the patient experience. Springbok Entertainment, founder of Springbok Cares, is a multi-media production company that has been at the forefront of VR content development and production. The company developed the first-ever cinematic narrative VR music video, “New Generation,” which won Digital Hollywood’s Best Music Video Award. “The Ark, “ Springbok’s VR documentary on Kenya’s northern white rhinoceros, the most endangered species in the world, premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival to rave reviews. Springbok is one of the first partners of Google’s VR education platform, Expeditions, that takes students on virtual field trips around the world.

“Combining Springbok’s expertise in storytelling and technology with the cutting-edge insight of our medical partners, the Virtual Reality Patient Initiative offers a streamlined infrastructure for entertainment, consumer and technology companies to collaborate in bringing premium content and experiences to the patient population,” said Brandon Zamel, CEO of Springbok Entertainment.

by Mary Dacuma