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An augmented reality platform to reduce post-operative and chronic opioid use in pediatric cancer

Award Information
Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
Branch: National Institutes of Health
Contract: 1R42DA050365-01A1
Agency Tracking Number: R42DA050365
Amount: $278,747.00
Phase: Phase I
Program: STTR
Solicitation Topic Code: NIDA
Solicitation Number: DA19-020
Solicitation Year: 2019
Award Year: 2020
Award Start Date (Proposal Award Date): 2020-06-01
Award End Date (Contract End Date): 2020-11-30
Small Business Information
Ann Arbor, MI 48104-1938
United States
DUNS: 079952978
HUBZone Owned: No
Woman Owned: Yes
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: No
Principal Investigator
 (734) 926-9035
Business Contact
Phone: (734) 926-9035
Research Institution
HOUSTON, TX 77030-4009
United States

 Nonprofit College or University

Pediatric opioid use is a public health crisis. In children, prescription opioids are the primary source of non-
medical abuse as well as opioid-associated hospitalizations and deaths. Early opioid use in childhood is a
known “gateway” to adulthood dependence and substance abuse disorders. Despite years of research, opioids
remain the most commonly prescribed pain medication for children with cancer. These children experience
pain from the time of diagnosis into adulthood as survivors, primarily from the treatment for their cancer. The
majority of pediatric cancer patients have persistent opioid use in the months following major surgery to cure or
to treat their disease. More concerning, studies in childhood cancer survivors show that major surgery
increases risk of new-onset and chronic opioid use. The high costs and lack of scalability of traditional
distraction-based medical devices for managing pain, such as virtual reality headsets, limit their clinical impact
and commercial potential. As cancer patients are often immunocompromised, risk from infectious disease
transmission from sharing devices is an additional, possibly life-threatening, concern.
Mobile augmented reality applications eliminate these limitations, representing a cost-effective, safe and
commercially viable adjunctive tool for pain management in critically ill children. Our goal is to reduce long-term
opioid use in children with cancer undergoing major surgery by distracting them from their pain with a
scavenger hunt-style mobile AR game while they are recovering in the hospital. To achieve this goal, we have
collaborated with pediatric oncologists, anesthesiologists and pain specialists at the MD Anderson Cancer
Center and the Baylor College of Medicine (Texas Children’s Hospital). In Phase I, we will demonstrate the
feasibility of investigating the ARISE (Augmented Reality Incorporating Spatial Enhancement) game for
reducing opioid consumption in the inpatient postoperative wards. In Phase II, we will evaluate the efficacy of
the game to reduce immediate and long-term postoperative opioid use in children with cancer undergoing
major treatment-related surgery in a multi-site randomized controlled clinical trial (AURORA trial: Augmented
Reality for Opioid Reduction in Childhood Cancer). To our knowledge, this is the first RCT to investigate mobile
augmented reality for opioid reduction in pediatric cancer patients or for postoperative opioid reduction in any
pediatric population. As the majority of children with cancer are expected to survive long-term, the benefits of
reducing and preventing chronic opioid use in this high-risk, refractory pain population will last over the lifetime
In this STTR, ALTality, Inc. (otherwise known as “SpellBound”) will assess the feasibility and efficacy of an
inpatient augmented reality game (ARISE: Augmented Reality Incorporating Spatial Enhancement) to reduce
acute and chronic opioid use in children with cancer following major surgery in collaboration with pediatric
oncologists, anesthesiologists and pain specialists at the MD Anderson Cancer Center and the Texas
Children’s Hospital. If successful, the ARISE AR game will be a cost-effective, safe and commercially viable
adjunctive tool for pain management urgently needed to prevent long-term opioid use, abuse and dependency
in a critically ill, high-risk pediatric population.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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