Diane Jooris, OnComfort
co-founder and CEO
When Diane Jooris won the inaugural Astellas Oncology C3 competition — designed to identify non- medicine innovations that improve patients' cancer-care experience — last year, news reports emphasized the technology itself: a VR tool to help cancer patients manage anxiety.
There was a personal story underlining Jooris' groundbreaking work, however: Before cofounding Oncomfort, she was a mind–body intervention specialist at the MD Anderson Cancer Center. Her experience in that role — especially during her sister's battle with breast cancer — spurred her to try to develop a way for patients to receive psychological support outside the clinical environment.
“When I was taking care of my younger sister, I saw how difficult it was for her to manage the stress that built up over the weeks of her breast-cancer treatment,” Jooris said when she had found out that she had won the competition.
“Over time, the constant stress led to extreme anxiety and a feeling of helplessness that led her to question whether the treatment process was worth it.”
In an interview with the Houston Business Journal, Jooris (now the company's CEO) added that Oncomfort's VR application could be also be used to ease the anxiety associated with other diseases. “If we can provide this for cancer,” Jooris says, “we can apply it to any medical journey.”