Two month after VRHealth unveiled its new virtual reality product aimed at curbing hot flashes, called Luna, the company has exclusively released results of its pilot study to MobiHealthNews. The small study found that breast cancer patients and survivors in the trial reported feeling 50 percent fewer hot flashes and night sweats than at baseline.
The way the product works is that when a patient puts on the VR headset an AI trainer called Luna appears. Luna guides users through cognitive behavioral therapy and other coping mechanisms. The system also lets users virtually travel to new environments, such as a snowy tundra.
The study found that in addition to a decrease in hot flashes, stress also declined among participants. After three weeks of using the technology the number of patients that reported perceived stress from health concerns as high-to-very high dropped from 63 percent to 37 percent.
Additionally, researchers found that the participants using the technology improved their sleep quality. The number of patients with disturbances dropped from 89 percent at baseline to 65 percent after using the VR system.
How it was done
The pilot study, which was funded by VRHealth, included 37 breast cancer patients or survivors that were experiencing hot flashes as a side effect from treatment. During the study patients could download the Luna app on their smartphone and use it with the corresponding BOBO Z4 VR googles, which were provided by the company.
The study lasted a total of 24 days. During that time, researchers recommended that patients use the technology twice a day. Researchers noted that only about 65 percent of the participants used the VR system daily. The data was based on patient surveys.
“The study surveys administered before and after the intervention period contained questions to assess subjective feelings of intensity, physical symptoms, psychological symptoms and time to return to normal routine as well as questions that were taken from validated questionnaires pertaining to perceived stress, psychological distress, illness perception, sleep quality and quality of life,” the authors of the study wrote.
The group of participants were mostly white, middle-aged, educated, American women in a relationship with children. The authors of the report noted that the study was noncontrolled and non-blinded.
Hot flashes are typically triggered by a hormone drop. They can be associated with breast cancer chemotherapy and surgery to remove the ovaries as well as menopause, according to the Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA).
“Hot flashes and night sweats (HF/NS) are frequent side effect of endocrine therapy or chemotherapy for breast cancer patients associated with social embarrassment, discomfort, and distress,” authors of the study wrote. “Moreover, HF/NS events may interfere with cancer therapies, and existing pharmacological therapies have undesirable side effects.”
The condition is commonly treated with hormone therapy, antidepressants and other prescription medications. VRHealth is positioning Luna as an alternative to traditional medications.
While this may be one of the only VR products that is focused on hot flashes, the technology is becoming increasingly popular to manage pain and anxiety. Clinicians are deploying it in a wide range of settings including obstetrics, pediatrics and rehabilitation.