New video game helps young cancer patients understand treatment

LOS ANGELES

Javier Jara, 18, is in his second battle with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, and Jose Guevara, 19, is in "remission," which is also the name of a game that they both play. As a patient, Guevara helped developers improve it.

It may look like the teens are just playing a video game, but they're actually getting a deeper understanding for a disease that threatened both their lives.

"It pretty much informs me on what I have to know about what I'm going through," said Jara.

Being in a virtual world where nanobots and immune cells destroy cancer helped Guevara understand how chemo really works.

"This actually does look like your body so this resembles how a…cancer cell would look," said Guevara.

Dr. Ernest Katz and colleagues partnered up with the creative team at HopeLab. He says pediatric patients often have no idea why they have to take medications that make them feel even worse. This game gives them an inside understanding.

"This approach helps empower young children and really does help them participate in their care more effectively and, ultimately, leads to higher incidence of cure," said Katz.

Studies show visualization can be an important part of healing. Doctors say if patients can see and understand how chemotherapy is working in their system, it can empower the patient.

"It's not just a nice thing to do to help young people get through their treatments. We really believe, and the science is now coming out to support this, that it really does make a difference," said Katz.

In real life, Guevara mastered the game and now he's showing Jara how to do the same.

"At the end of the day, you could beat it just like you can beat this game, and you can unlock every level just like you can unlock every level of your cancer treatment until you get to remission and you no longer have to worry about it," said Guevara.

The game "Remission" is available to all patients at Children's Hospital Los Angeles, but anyone can download it for free on their smartphone or tablets.

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