New biomarkers associated with lingering cancer treatment fatigue symptoms



Many patients who undergo radiation therapy for cancer experience prolonged and debilitating fatigue as a symptom of the disease and as a side effect the treatment. However, the precise causes of such fatigue remain elusive. Without alternatives for treating cancer patients’ fatigue, doctors often must respond by reducing or stopping radiation therapy, both of which can adversely affect treatment outcomes.


In an ongoing research program designed to establish relationships between patients’ reported fatigue symptoms and quantifiable biomarkers in their body systems, IRP researchers led by Leorey Saligan, Ph.D., R.N., C.R.N.P., identified two new biomarkers — proteins called TRAIL and TRAIL-R3 — that are present at significantly higher levels in patients with more severe fatigue symptoms up to one-year after radiotherapy.


This discovery contributes to our understanding of why and how repeated radiation treatment causes fatigue and other debilitating symptoms, as well as why these symptoms may linger after treatment ends. The newly associated biomarkers also present potential targets for developing therapeutic interventions aimed at reducing fatigue symptoms in patients undergoing radiation treatment for cancer.


Feng LR, Suy S, Collins SP, Saligan LN. (2017). The role of TRAIL in fatigue induced by repeated stress from radiotherapy. J Psychiatr Res. Aug;91:130-138. doi: 0.1016/j.jpsychires.2017.03.012.

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Leorey Saligan works as a nurse and scientist to improve both quality of life and therapeutic outcomes for patients suffering from fatigue.

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This page was last updated on Tuesday, June 13, 2023