Mass General to test Virtual Reality digital therapeutics for cancer patients

The hospital is launching a pilot program in which 80 patients being treated for blood cancer will use a VR platform to address behavioral health and care management issues.


  • Massachusetts General Hospital and Rocket VR Health have been collaborating since 2021 on virtual reality-based digital therapeutic treatments;
  • The latest project will use a VR platform to address quality of life, symptom burden, psychological distress, and self-efficacy for patients with blood cancer who are undergoing hematopoetic set cell transplants (HCT);
  • These patients live with a variety of health and wellness concerns during and after treatment, which includes a month-long hospital stay; and
  • Massachusetts General Hospital will be enrolling 80 patients in a trial program testing the value of a virtual reality digital therapeutic platform on behavioral health.

MGH, which is Harvard Medical School’s largest teaching hospital, is partnering with Rocket VR Health on the program, which aims to improve quality of life, symptom burden, psychological distress, and self-efficacy for patients living with blood cancers who are undergoing hematopoietic set cell transplants (HCT).  These patients often deal with a wide range of health concerns during their four-week hospital stay that can affect both short- and long-term health and wellness.

“The capacity to use VR to improve the physical and psychological wellbeing of patients with cancer enduring prolonged hospitalization can increase access and potential for scalability and dissemination of this supportive care platform,” Areej El-Jawahri, an Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, Director of Digital Health at the Mass General Cancer Center, and a Co-Investigator of the Study, said in a press release.  “Today, we can deliver therapeutic VR interventions on lightweight, affordable and ergonomic headsets with therapeutic experiences that are more engaging than what has been possible in the past,” Rocket VR Health Co-founder and CEO Sid Desai added.  “This study will guide us towards validating the efficacy of our digital therapeutic in our effort to build the go-to distress management solution for hospitalized patients.”

MGH and Rocket VR Health have been working since 2021 on a digital therapeutic platform incorporating VR technology, leveraging research on palliative care interventions for patients undergoing HCT.  They have developed a four-week program that includes interactive sessions, doctor holograms and meditations in nature-based locations.

REFERENCE:  Health Leaders; 08 MAR 2023; Eric Wicklund