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The use of games in cancer care & research

Games & social media, nowadays, become tools for cancer care & research.
Hello! Everybody. My name is Luis Fernandez Luque. I am eHealth researcher of the Qatar Computing Research Institute. and also co-founder of Salumedia. This week we are going to speak about the use of games and game techniques for cancer research and also cancer care. So, let’s start from the beginning. Why do we care about video games and gaming techniques? The reason is very simple. Many of the eHealth innovation that we are teaching you and showing you during this course are boring. People, at the end, stop using them because not engaging. You don’t find rewards and at the end something that is not entertaining. We tend to avoid to do it.
And here you can see an example from Homer Simpson that he didn’t even want to just stand up to the computer. So how we can make something more fun and more entertaining so that you will feel engaged? There is a technology called video games on design principle that will help you. Here is one example of the Wii Fit that was a video game from Nintendo where you exercise to play. And you have different levels. You can play with other. You get rewards; you have points etc. many games element at the end make something like being in front of the computer, a perfect place to exercise with others. Many of those principle have been taken to cancer.
And I will show you some example. Let’s start with education. For example, in leukemia. Some young adults they had to take oral treatment even after their symptoms of the disease are gone for very long period and that’s a huge challenge because you have many side effects from the drugs like feeling nausea, etc. So how do you convince a teenager to keep taking a pill although they feel perfect and the pill make them feel sick? we need to educate them but that can be quite boring. So what they did in the Hope lab was to make a video game very entertaining, engaging, where you learn all the principles of cancer care. How they did it?
They put into the video game a set of guns, weapons, etc. where you can kill those cancer cells and if you don’t kill it the right way, you actually may have some cells that they survive and then the cancer may reappear later also you can choose whether to use a chemotherapy to kill those cancer cells that will damage also the healthy tissue within the game. so you can also learn the principle of some chemotherapy that actually affects other healthy cells giving you the side effect. In this way, you are learning the side effect; the importance of taking the treatment; the right amount of time etc. in a video game.
They also did it for a mobile phone so that you can actually play while you are in the bus or whatever you want to play And in that way, you are reinforcing all the education at any time. In this video you can see how actually the video game works Overall, they did a study and they found that this type of video game can improve the adherence to the oral treatment, also increasing knowledge on cancer care. As a result of this successful outcome for the project, they had translated into several languages including Spanish, English, etc. They also study what happen in our brain when we are playing such a video game. What they found; using some MRI.
It’s actually that while you play a video game, there are more areas in your brain are activated because it is more engaging, etc. And that facilitates learning and knowledge retention if we compare with other type of ways to teach about health or any other issue. but we can also use video games for something that’s not so clinical. For example, running. There are many, like me, who find very boring to go running, so how we can make running and physical activity, in general, more fun? and that’s very important for cancer care to keep active. In this app is called zombies run game. You actually are running because there’s some zombies are behind you.
So while you are running, if you don’t run as fast as you were supposed to, you’ll start here in the zombies closer and closer. And you have to run because you have to complete missions. With those mission, you get supplies so that your calm can get better and you can also help others give him the points you have collected by running etc. So they have make a new completely entertaining rewarding environment around a game. With physical activity that you are not anymore just running but you are playing a video game with your friends and others.
And that, as you can imagine, can be more entertaining that just simply running, although some people may choose to just listen music and that will also work. We can also use games in cancer, not for cancer treatment, but actually for helping research. A lot of people play video games whether Sudoku, puzzle, just for pure pleasure. And some researchers are taking advantage of that. And they have actually video games where by putting to different pieces, you are actually making a puzzle that help a biomedical researcher.
So instead of using computer to try out how to put better the different biomechanical elements, they have make a game where the public can try to combine the pieces together and in that way, you are helping biomedical research. They have done this for even breast cancer survival prediction and the result have published. There is also a puzzle for DNA including for cancer where you can help combining different DNA structure to help biomedical researchers, and also in the charity cancer research from the UK. They have made video games, too. So that the citizens can engage in biomedical research in cancer. And many of those have been very successful with 100,000 downloads, and many people actually promoting cancer research.
In this video, you will see better how does it work.
Some key points for the use of games in cancer care: we need to find ways to motivate people towards a healthier lifestyle, and that goes for everybody. Healthy people, people with cancer, people with who have already survived, cancer etc. There are many elements from games that we can use to find those personalized trends that can motivate to achieve a healthier lifestyle. For example, the social ties, your preferences etc. And there are many games activities we can take to the daily life so that we can get motivation for healthy eating, physical activity to remember those peels that we tend to forget etc. But remember the best motivation is not a game.
We have to make an application and design application that even by playing, we are feeling healthier but also by helping ourselves. Not just for the stick of the video games and that can be achieved in some of the sample I showed you.

Cancer nowadays has become a chronic disease. Patient compliance becomes one of the important issues during their treatment.

In this video, Dr. Luis will introduce several interesting projects which promote the awareness of patient treatment. Please also look at the related articles at the “see also” below.

Do you have experience of gaming in a healthcare setting? Have you played a game yourself? Share your thoughts with other learners in the comments.

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Digital Health for Cancer Management: Smart Health Technologies in Complex Diseases

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