Superheroes versus cancer

The A.C.Camargo Cancer Center has begun a new "Superformula" initiative to make cancer treatment less frightening for its pediatric cancer patients, helping them to channel the strength of their favorite superheroes in their own battles.

Kelsey Kaustinen
Cancer is a staggering diagnosis no matter what age it isreceived at, but it is particularly devastating to see children diagnosed withsuch a disease. Harder still is explaining to a child what is happening totheir body, and the long fight that is ahead of them.
 
"Beginning the treatment is always a scary process, as muchfor the child as it is for the family," noted Dr. Cecilia Lima da Costa, headof Pediatric Oncology at A.C.Camargo Cancer Center.
 
 
But the A.C.Camargo Cancer Center in São Paulo has come upwith a new way to deal with that issue, and to make the fight seem a littlemore manageable for its younger patients. In conjunction with the ad agency JWT and Warner Brothers, a JWT client, A.C.Camargo is now presenting itschemotherapy treatments as "superformula" for pediatric patients. New plasticcases for the chemotherapy IV bags have been designed that feature the colorsand logos of DC Comics superheroes such as Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman.In addition, the game room and others parts of the Cancer Center have beenredecorated into the Justice League's Hall of Justice.
 
 
As JWT notes on its blog, the campaign stemmed from thebelief that "the first step to the fight against cancer is believing in thecure … The new name and look of the treatment helped to change the perceptionin the kids by convincing them that the Superformula gave them their ownsuperpower which could be used to conquer their illness."
 
 
In addition, the team also developed a series of customcomic books in which some of the most famous members of the Justice Leaguefight a disease similar to cancer, caused by a gas released by a supervillain.The "superformula," which is developed by doctors and specialists in the comicbooks, just as in real life, is then administered to the superheroes to helpthem recover. The comic books enable the doctors and nurses to explain cancerto their young patients, and along with the special IV bag cases, help thechildren understand that chemotherapy, even though it makes them sick, is meantto help them fight their own disease. It also helps to instill the belief thatcancer, like a comic book villain, is something that can be fought andovercome.
 
The campaign is one example of how cancer in particular hasbecome, in a way, a 'public' disease. While patients can always count onsupport from their family and friends when sick or hospitalized, most diagnosesaren't aired beyond that group. But these days, a cancer diagnosis can often bea rallying point for support not only from a patient's immediate circle, butalso from the community; Lance Armstrong's long-term battle with cancer—and thesignificant fundraising for cancer research as a result of the Live Strongmovement—is just the most famous example. And in turn, the increased public awarenessand support has helped to push research and treatments forward as communitieshost events such as charity walks to raise money in support of individuals'treatment or for further research.
 
Whilefighting cancer is ultimately a battle that has to be waged individually, efforts such as these that provide strength and support—and a new way oflooking at the disease—are helping to make the battlefield a bit more level.

Kelsey Kaustinen

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