Virtual Reality in Health System: Beyond Entertainment. A Mini-Review on the Efficacy of VR During Cancer Treatment

J Cell Physiol. 2016 Feb;231(2):275-87. doi: 10.1002/jcp.25117.


Virtual reality (VR), a computer-generated virtual environment, has been increasingly used in the entertainment world becoming a very new evolving field, but VR technology has also found a variety of applications in the biomedical field. VR can offer to subjects a safe environment within which to carry on different interventions ranging from the rehabilitation of discharged patients directly at home, to the support of hospitalized patients during different procedures and also of oncological inpatient subjects. VR appears as a promising tool for support and monitoring treatments in cancer patients influencing psychological and physiological functions. The aim of this systematic review is to provide an overview of all the studies that used VR intervention on cancer patients and analyze their main findings. Nineteen studies across nearly a thousand articles were identified that explored effects of VR interventions on cancer patients. Although these studies varied greatly in setting and design, this review identified some overarching themes. Results found that VR improved patients' emotional well-being, and diminished cancer-related psychological symptoms. The studies explored various relevant variables including different types of settings (i.e., during chemotherapy, during pain procedures, during hospitalization). Here, we point to the need of a global and multi-disciplinary approach aimed at analyzing the effects of VR taking advantage of the new technology systems like biosensors as well as electroencephalogram monitoring pre, during, and after intervention. Devoting more attention to bio-physiological variables, standardized procedures, extending duration to longitudinal studies and adjusting for motion sickness related to VR treatment need to become standard of this research field.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / physiopathology
  • Neoplasms / psychology
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Pain / prevention & control
  • Stress, Physiological
  • Stress, Psychological / prevention & control
  • Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy / methods*
  • Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy / trends


  • Antineoplastic Agents