Inaugural winners address anxiety management, online patient support and fatigue reduction; 2017 program to launch in June
“When my father was diagnosed with head and neck cancer, we all knew that life would never be the same,” Mark Reisenauer says. “What we didn’t know was exactly how much it would change.” Reisenauer had no idea, for instance, how few tools and resources existed to help patients with cancer – and for those who care for them – and navigate what he calls “the complicated journey that begins the moment you receive the news.”
Reisenauer, however, had insight into the journey others may not. As it turns out, he’s senior vice president for the oncology business unit, Astellas Pharma US, responsible for commercial activities supporting marketed products, Astellas' co-promotion partners and commercial planning for early stage oncology development compounds.
Reisenauer’s experience inspired the launch of Astellas'C3 Prize, a global challenge designed to acknowledge the potential of non-medicine innovations to improve the cancer care experience for patients, caregivers and their loved ones. The challenge awards three winners a total of $100,000 in grants along with a membership to MATTER, a U.S.-based technology incubator that empowers players from across the healthcare ecosystem to solve complex challenges.
In its inaugural year, more than 100 patients, caregivers, health care providers and technology entrepreneurs from 15 countries submitted ideas for innovations to potentially change cancer care. Out of these submissions, five finalists pitched their ideas live at Medicine X, a major health technology conference sponsored by the Stanford University School of Medicine. The conference was held at the school’s new $90 millon Li Ka Shing Center for Learning and Knowledge, and the finalists pitched in front of a panel of judges that included Reisenauer and Robert Herjavec, star of the Emmy Award-winning U.S. television show, Shark Tank and Canada’s Dragon’s Den. Like Reisenauer, Herjavec has a personal connection to cancer through his experience caring for his mother, who died of ovarian cancer in 2007.
“I know, from personal experience, the daily challenges faced by those affected by cancer,” said Herjavec. “I also know, from professional experience, the power and impact technology can make on improving lives. The C3 Prize finalists and winners represent this intersection of personal connection, creativity and tenacity.”
The winners, announced at the European Society of Medical Oncology (ESMO) conference in Copenhagen on Oct. 7, 2016, offer the kinds of innovations that could help patients and caregivers through their unique personal challenges related to cancer.
Grand Prize winner Diane Jooris, of Brussels, Belgium, is co-founder of Oncomfort™, a company that develops virtual reality (VR) modules designed to help manage anxiety in cancer patients before, during and after treatment. Oncomfort™ received a $50,000 grant to help bring a new VR module for pediatric patients to market.
“When I was taking care of my younger sister Mathilde, I saw how difficult it was for her to manage the stress that built up over the weeks of her breast cancer treatment,” Jooris said. “Oncomfort leverages virtual reality technology to help train patients in stress management techniques, give them easy-to-understand information and help them feel more in control, calm and comfortable.”
First place winner Mark Harrison of Melbourne, Australia, is chief executive officer of Australian Prostate Cancer Research, whose interactive online system, PROSTMATE™, provides patients with prostate cancer personalized, specialist support online as well as a private portal where they can track their progress before and after treatment. Harrison received a $25,000 grant to help increase awareness of PROSTMATE™.
Another first place winner is Larry Pederson of Seattle, Washington, founder of Canada-based The Litebook® Company, which has developed a portable light therapy device to reduce fatigue and potentially increase quality of life for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. Pederson received a $25,000 grant to help increase awareness of Litebook among cancer organizations, patients and caregivers.
“We launched the program because we wanted to hear fresh ideas and perspectives from people who want to make a difference in the lives of those living with cancer,” Reisenauer says. “Each of the winning innovations represents a tremendous opportunity to improve patient and caregiver lives.”
Diane Jooris, Brussels, co-founder of Oncomfort™, a health-tech company that uses virtual reality systems to help patients by providing anxiety and pain self-management tools.
Mark Harrison, Melbourne, Australia, developed PROSTMATE™, an interactive online systems that provides a tailored experience to help men with prostate cancer get the information, support and tools they need to manage their disease.
Larry Pederson, Seattle, founder of The Litebook Company®, a Canadian-based organization that invented a portable light therapy device that has the potential to “reset” a patient’s body clock and help to improve energy, sleep and overall quality of life.