April 19, 2013 at 11:40 am

Music App for Cancer Patients Promises Relaxation, Energy, More

Countless studies suggest that listening to music has a range of physical and mental health benefits. As such, there’s no shortage of app developers striving to deliver the healing power of music in app form, from those that purport to reduce painalleviate stress, help you relax, or get in shape.

Now, a group of music therapists, designers, and neuroscientists led by new media healthcare company Coro Health have come together to create MusicFirst: Oncology (iOS; free for the first hour, then $3/month; not to be confused with MusicFirst), which provides individualized music therapy for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.

“The healthcare community has become increasingly aware of the power of music to support individuals undergoing treatment for cancer,” says Coro Health CCO Leanne Flask. “Our app promises to revolutionize oncology patient support by addressing the challenge of making therapeutic music in oncology settings personalized, accessible and affordable.”


The company has a commercial API that lets developers, hospitals, and other healthcare providers build their own apps using the song selection, and mood data.

By creating a relaxing environment for patients through music, MusicFirst (and third-party developers on its platform) aim to support the individual’s immune system, increase oxygen levels, and lower pulse rates. But don’t let the word “relaxing” fool you. The creators handpicked over 1,000 hours of music of a variety of genres: classical, instrumentals, rock, pop, urban, country, jazz, oldies, and Latin, some of which is for relaxation, and some of which is for energy.

In our testing, the music generally sounded good in all of the genres. This online music sampling gives a sense of the programming; all of the music is fully licensed, according to CoroHealth, as internet radio.

The songs definitely have a ’50s/’60s/’70s skew, which makes sense considering the median age of cancer patients at diagnosis. Examples:
  • Cream – “Badge”
  • Bobby Vinton – “I Love How You Love Me”
  • Buddy Holly – “It’s So Easy”
  • Bo Diddley – “You Know I Love You”
  • The Young Rascals – “Groovin’”
  • Bob Dylan – “The Times They Are a-Changin’”

Of course, one could create playlists with similar songs and moods, but knowing that each song in the app was specifically selected by music therapists and neuroscientists might give the listener one less thing to worry about.

The app runs on iOS 4.3 or higher, and was specifically designed to be used in oncology settings, so that patients can use their customized music program in their regular treatment environment.