Understanding childhood cancer from the inside out with virtual reality

22 February 2019
Virtual reality
Virtual reality goggles

Associate Professor Dan Catchpoole, Head of the Tumour Bank at the Children’s Hospital at Westmead, has been awarded $260,000 to use Virtual Reality (VR) visualization to allow childhood cancer specialists to make more informed treatment decisions for their patients, thanks to an innovative grant program by the Sony Foundation and cancer charity Tour de Cure.

The program aims to bring medical researchers and virtual reality developers together, and will see A/Prof Catchpoole working with data analysts and computer scientists Professor Paul Kennedy and Professor Andrew Johnston (University of Technology Sydney), visualization analysis academics Dr Vinh Nguyen and Professor Simeon Simoff (Western Sydney University) and virtual reality experts from Melbourne-based tech gaming firm, Samurai Punk. 

The multidisciplinary team will use VR to explore large groups of young people with cancer, organising them visually in three-dimensional space based on their specific genetic and biological information, so that they can be easily compared with each other.  

“This technology will allow clinicians to zoom in on their individual patient in a 3D virtual genomic world, to see how they compare to other patients diagnosed with the same kind of cancer.  By seeing how similar patients responded to certain treatments, treating doctors can make informed decisions about what is most likely to work for their patients, and deliver this treatment as soon as possible without the guesswork,” said A/Prof Catchpoole.

As the head of Tumour banking and biospecimens research with the Children’s Cancer Research Unit at Kids Research, A/Prof Catchpoole is passionate about integrating data analysis into the clinic, and advancing precision medicine by effectively harnessing data stored in biobanks locally and around the world.  

Watch the video below to find out more about how this project will benefit children diagnosed with cancer.


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