Facebook Pixel Code
About Sickkids
About SickKids

May 7, 2012

New iPhone app helps kids with cancer fight pain


  • Researchers at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) are always looking for new ways to improve pain management for cancer patients, and with the help of Cundari, a leading Toronto-based marketing communications agency; a pain diary app called “Pain Squad” was developed.  
  • Pain Squad is an iPhone app that helps kids and teens with cancer track how intense their pain is, how long it lasts, where it hurts as well as what helps to treat it.  They are also able to record how pain impacts their mood and daily activities, such as doing schoolwork, sleeping and interacting with others.
  • While there are many hurdles in pain treatment, inadequate assessment and a patient’s reluctance to report pain are among the biggest barriers. Adolescents with cancer were involved in the research and development of the app, providing feedback on content and user-friendliness.  
  • Cundari created the Pain Squad theme to keep kids engaged and motivated to complete their pain surveys twice a day. Cundari sought the help of celebrities from two prime-time Canadian law enforcement shows, Rookie Blue and Flashpoint. Playing their crime- fighting characters, the actors performed in encouraging video clips that are unlocked as the kids win promotions to higher ranks. Patient-users join the Pain Squad as “Rookies” and progress through different levels. By completing more surveys they are promoted to higher ranks, such as “Sergeant” and “Captain”.
  • Pain Squad has just finished the third phase of testing to assess whether it’s easy for patients to use and understand. The app will soon be tested in three other Canadian paediatric oncology centres. The ultimate goal, explains Dr. Jennifer Stinson, lead researcher of the project, is to make the Pain Squad App available to all Canadian adolescents with cancer with the hope that improved pain monitoring will result in better pain management and improve the quality of life for these youths with cancer.


  • “We made it easier for kids and teens to track their pain symptoms by using technology that they’re familiar with. Keeping an iPhone pain diary is not only less work, but fun, too. Pain Squad is unique because while it helps patients keep track of their own symptoms, it also contributes to research by collecting data on cancer pain. Having solid information on the prevalence and severity of pain and the effectiveness of treatment will allow us to better manage pain and ultimately help improve the quality of life for our patients.” - Dr. Jennifer Stinson, Scientist and Nurse Practitioner in the Chronic Pain Program, SickKids
  • “Filling out a paper pain journal was like homework. The Pain Squad app is interactive and the more Olivia used it, the more rewards she got. It only takes a few minutes to complete but it gave Olivia a better understanding of and more control over her pain.”
    - Sam and Gloria Santarelli, parents of Olivia Santarelli, 11, SickKids patient and study participant
  • “Over the past three years we've gone to great lengths to reinvent Cundari as not just a creative ad agency, but as a technologically creative agency. This application was a unique opportunity to showcase this. Our creative staff worked closely with our newly formed mobile software group to deliver an impressive end result.” He continues, “It just so happened that the project itself was also rewarding, professionally as Cundari's CTO, and personally as a parent.”
    - Wayne Gomes, Chief Technology Officer (CTO), Cundari


  • Every year in Canada 1,400 children are diagnosed with cancer and must not only battle the disease itself, but also the pain associated with cancer and its treatment. Pain is a common and distressing symptom that affects a patient’s quality of life. To effectively manage pain, doctors and nurses rely on the patients to communicate how they are feeling. One way to do this is to have them fill out a detailed paper-based pain diary every day. The challenge is that after chemotherapy and radiation treatment, the last thing on these kids’ minds is completing a pain dairy.
  • This research was supported by a grant from C17 Children’s Cancer & Blood Disorders. The development of Pain Squad iPhone app was made possible thanks to the expertise of Cundari’s development and creative teams as well as the time and effort of the actors from the shows Rookie Blue and Flashpoint.

    About The Hospital for Sick Children
    The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) is recognized as one of the world’s foremost paediatric health-care institutions and is Canada’s leading centre dedicated to advancing children’s health through the integration of patient care, research and education. Founded in 1875 and affiliated with the University of Toronto, SickKids is one of Canada’s most research-intensive hospitals and has generated discoveries that have helped children globally.  Its mission is to provide the best in complex and specialized family-centred care; pioneer scientific and clinical advancements; share expertise; foster an academic environment that nurtures health-care professionals; and champion an accessible, comprehensive and sustainable child health system. SickKids is proud of its vision for Healthier Children. A Better World. For more information, please visit www.sickkids.ca.

    About Cundari
    Cundari is one of Canada’s largest independently owned and operated communications agencies, applying thought leadership to the building of business solutions as the key benefit for client partners. Guided by the core philosophy "It's the thought that counts," Cundari, with offices in Toronto and Montreal, works in our two official languages across an array of disciplines such as research, strategic planning, brand identity, advertising, design, digital, experiential, direct and media planning. Established in 1980,The Cundari Group is proud to be entrusted with premiere brands including BMW, SUBWAY, TELUS, Northern Ontario Tourism, Blue Cross and Ivey School of Business, The University of Western Ontario. For more information visit www.cundari.com.


Caitlin McNamee-Lamb
The Hospital for Sick Children
416-813-7654, ext. 1436

Manal Russel
Communications Executive, Cundari
Desk: 416.642.5622
Mobile: 416.716.0442

Carol-Ann Granatstein
Director, Marketing & Communications, Cundari
Desk: 416.645.2355
Mobile: 416.301.4042