health_sciencesOncology and Symptoms Research group

Oncology and Symptoms Research group

Members of the Oncology and Symptoms Research group are involved in research to identify the symptoms that may be experienced during and following treatment for cancer and associated blood biomarkers that may be associated with these symptoms.  The Oncology and Symptoms Research Group is closely linked to the Biomedical Research Group (BRG).  The BRG has evolved in Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) and is comprised of staff members from the School of Health Science and School of Science and associated medical clinicians in Waterford Regional Hospital (WRH).  The BRG have been engaged in cancer, vascular health, diabetes and bone health research projects.  Linked into the centre are researchers and research active clinicians in the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI and WRH a RCSI teaching hospital).  The group have benefited greatly by working together, sharing core laboratory facilities, analytical expertise, student training opportunities and biomedical contacts.

Dr. Martina Gooney
Telephone: 051-302194
e-mail: [email protected]

Breast cancer is by far the most common form of cancer among women. Worldwide, more than a million women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year (23% of all female cancer cases), accounting for a tenth of all new cancers . Women with breast cancer may experience many symptoms resulting from the primary disease and/ or the treatment of the disease. Symptoms can exist alone, however more often, multiple symptoms occur simultaneously. As patients with cancer often experience several symptoms concurrently this research group is interested in examining the idea that symptoms may cluster. These concurrent symptoms may have a synergistic effect on each other or perhaps on another outcome such as functioning or quality of life.

It has been suggested that symptoms in a cluster may also share a common biologic mechanism. In recent years, a number of researchers in discussing the clusters they identified, suggested that the underlying aetiology might be the action of pro-inflammatory cytokines. It would seem that the symptoms that cluster in women with breast cancer reflect sickness behaviour activity and therefore the aetiology of these symptoms may be linked to cytokine activity in the body. Therefore, our research group is exploring the relationship of cytokines to symptom clusters in women with breast cancer.

Annually, an average of 606 cases of rectal cancer was registered in Ireland between 2005 and 2009. Standard treatment for locally advanced rectal cancer is a neoadjuvant approach using concommitant chemo-radiotherapy followed by radical surgery within 4-8 weeks following completion of radiotherapy, with both the illness and treatment leading to the development of a number of side effects, including fatigue. The aim of this research is to determine the possible correlation between the radiosensitivity of human lymphocytes and response to treatment, as well as acute toxicity in patients with locally advanced rectal cancer treated with neoadjuvant chemoradiotherapy and surgery, and the effect of acute toxicity on their quality of life during preoperative radiotherapy.

The research group collaborates on research projects with medical consultants, including surgeons, oncologists and physicians.


The group links for research projects with surgeons and scientists from the RCSI.  


The UPMC, through its radiation oncologists and physicists collaborate on research projects with the group.

The Oncology and Symptoms Research Group is a sub group of the interdisciplinary Biomedical Research Group which brings together researchers from the Biomedical Sciences, Medicine, Nursing and Sport and Exercise Science.

We can host internships linked to specific projects in the field of oncology and support PhD candidates. If you are interested in pursuing a research degree in the field of oncology you can make informal contact Dr Martina Gooney to discuss your ideas and options. Our collaborative research partnerships and research projects provide doctoral and postdoctoral opportunities. 

Principal Investigator: Ms. Suzanne Denieffe e-mail: [email protected]

Project Title: Relationship of biomarkers to symptom clusters in women with breast cancer.

Name: Ms. Claire O’Gorman e-mail: [email protected]

Project Title: Chemoradiotherapy and Rectal Cancer: Impact on Symptoms, Quality of life and Radiosensitivity of Lymphocytes as a Prognostic Indicator. 

[1] Denieffe, S., and Gooney, M.,(2008) Cancer related fatigue: A two-headed coin: A systematic review on patients and health professionals views of cancer related fatigue, Psycho-oncology, 17 (9): S184-185

[2] Denieffe, S., and Gooney, M.,(2011) A meta-synthesis of women’s symptoms experience and breast cancer, European Journal of Cancer, 20 (4): 424-435

[3] Denieffe, S., Gooney, M., and Cowman, S.  (2011) Symptoms and quality of life in women awaiting breast cancer surgery. European Journal of Cancer, 47(S1): 390-390