The Astellas Way Blog

Together, We Can Help Patients with Cancer Focus on Living

By Mark Reisenauer, Senior Vice President, Oncology

Jun 29, 2018

For more than 10 years, Astellas has been committed to turning innovative science into medical solutions that bring value and hope to patients living with cancer worldwide. Yet despite significant advances in treatment, patients and caregivers still face obstacles to receiving or providing optimal care. While development of innovative treatments is critical, education, support and commitment to community are essential parts of the cancer care continuum.

As I have shared before, this was a fact that became personal for me when I cared for my father as he battled head and neck cancer. And that experience is part of what inspired us to create the C3 Prize, an innovation competition aimed at shining a light on great ideas that may improve cancer care in the areas such as treatment adherence, navigation, coordination and survivorship.

With the C3 Prize, Astellas aims to help address unmet needs across the full cancer care continuum. We believe that by tapping into the shared experiences and insights of millions of innovators, caregivers and patients to source non-treatment innovations, We Can create a better tomorrow and help cancer patients focus on living.

I’m really proud of the way Astellas is acknowledging and supporting patient-focused innovation and I could not be more pleased with what we’ve achieved with the C3 Prize thus far. In the first two years of the program, applicants have included patients, caregivers, healthcare providers and technology entrepreneurs from more than 20 countries around the world. The quality of the submissions is a testament to the philosophy of tapping into the “wisdom of the crowd” and each of the 2016 and 2017 winner ideas has the potential to bring non-treatment based innovation in cancer care to reality. Since the creation of the C3 Prize, Astellas has provided a total of $200,000 in grant funding to support eight innovative ideas for improving the lives of patients and their caregivers.

2017 Grand Prize Winner Hernâni Oliveira from Porto, Portugal has a passion for making a difference in the lives of those affected by the disease that really shines through. His project has the potential to address a real unmet need for patients living with cancer, their caregivers and their loved ones

Oliveira’s entry, the HOPE project, consists of a two-part app developed to help pediatric cancer patients and their parents solve issues related to medication adherence and the sedentary lifestyle of children who are diagnosed with cancer, as well as help parents further understand and explain complex cancer treatment procedures. I’ve asked him a few questions to help you get to know him and the fantastic work he’s doing.

How did the HOPE project come about?

I began my studies with a degree in Biology and a master’s degree in Molecular Oncology, with the intent to pursue a career in genetics. But while I was working on a second degree in Communication Sciences, I observed a lack of accurate information and products to increase health knowledge that changed my perspective. So in 2016 I began working with a multidisciplinary team of designers, doctors, informatic engineers and communicators on the first Portuguese Health Literacy Laboratory at the University of Porto. Our mission is to increase health literacy and quality of life through the dissemination of disruptive products.

We realized that Pediatric Oncology was one of the areas that needed our special attention -- children going through cancer treatment often struggle emotionally and physically. This impact on physical health and having to deal with emotional issues can lead to a reduction in the effectiveness of treatment.

We really wanted to understand the complexities of that problem, so we worked with patients to conceptualize the HOPE project. We talked about their perceptions of cancer and their biggest fears. We wanted to develop a good solution for them, a solution that mattered. That’s why the main core of the activity was listening to our patients and their parents or caregivers.

What does the HOPE project entail?

The HOPE project consists of two different, but complementary platforms. Our first product - an augmented reality (AR) video game for smartphones and tablets - was developed to solve issues related to treatment adherence and the sedentary lifestyle of children between 6 and 10 years old, who are diagnosed with cancer. The game uses the metaphor of a superhero - the patient - fighting the bad guys – cancer and is set in the different environments that patients experience, e.g., hospital, home and school. The game combines a serious component that educates the child about oncologic disease and specific procedures like a blood test or x-ray, with innovative exergaming technology that tracks player movement to promote exercise.

Our second product was designed to increase parent and caregiver cancer literacy. It guides them through the treatment journey as the child progresses, giving information on medical procedures and explaining things simply in language that aligns with the game. The HOPE Project aims to train these important players in a shorter span of time, so they can establish more effective contact with the child, increasing their adaptation to a new reality more easily.

What is next for the project?

The C3 Prize grant will allow our team to run a trial of our latest prototype. Our aim is to improve the quality of the game and the app, and thereby reduce hospital admission times for patients. We’d also like to develop the project for other oncology institutes that have expressed an interest and make it available in English, French and Portuguese. And because the C3 Prize Live Pitch Event was held at the World Cancer Leader’s Summit in Mexico, we are now speaking to a lot of companies and foundations in Latin America. So there’s a possibility the project will be translated into Spanish as well.

Watch Hernâni talk about his project.


For more information about the challenge, Hernâni Oliveira and other winners, please visit: