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Cancer-related Fatigue: Biomarker Detection & Monitoring Using a New Wearable Technology

The Challenge

Cancer-related fatigue (CRF) is a persistent subjective sense of tiredness related to cancer or cancer treatment that interferes with usual functioning and is not relieved by sleep or extra rest (NCCN). Cancer survivors sometimes experience persistent, disabling levels of fatigue following treatment with systemic therapies. Lack of objective fatigue measures makes this problem difficult both to study and to treat.

The Innovation/Technology

Recent research conducted with persons living with chronic fatigue syndrome, multiple sclerosis, and traumatic brain injury, as well as studies of healthy persons experiencing mental fatigue, driving fatigue, and sleep deprivation, has documented that eye movements called ‘saccades’ have potential as clinically-meaningful biomarkers for fatigue that also correlate with subjective fatigue measures. However, there have been no studies of saccade parameters among patients reporting cancer-related fatigue to establish whether similar patterns of changes in oculomotor function exist for these individuals. There is evidence tracking eye movements could serve as a new biomarker for fatigue. Another barrier to exploring associations between eye movements and fatigue is the cost of eye-tracking technology. While researchers can use research-grade eye-tracking devices to describe these associations, the cost of these devices is prohibitive for most consumers and clinicians.

The Impact

The use of a low-cost, portable, non-invasive wearable technology such as computational eyeglasses could potentially provide patients with a new tool for self-monitoring and self-management of CRF and other conditions associated with changes in eye movements, such as multiple sclerosis, concussions/TBI, and other forms of encephalopathy. This research will set the stage for development of future protocols to test computational eyeglasses among cancer survivors and other clinical populations, in an effort accelerate translation of this emerging technology from bench to bedside.

The Solution

The iShadow-a set of computational eyeglasses developed in the lab of Dr. Deepak Ganesan of the College of Computer Science, with his graduate student Addison Mayberry. The iShadow system is a portable light-weight, head-mounted system (eyeglasses) that records the average position of both eyes in relation to the environment using inward & outward facing cameras. Owing to use of an algorithm that allows for gaze estimation using fewer pixels of information than research-grade devices (requiring less processing), the iShadow system has potential to be fabricated at much lower cost with a power consumption significantly-lower than that of research-grade devices.

Contact Info

Rachel Walker
College of Nursing
Skinner 122