Breast cancer-related fatigue to be studied with wearable sensor

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A team of researchers from Letterkenny Institute of Technology (LYIT) and Letterkenny University Hospital (LUH) is to use Shimmer’s Verisense™ continuous monitoring platform to study cancer-related fatigue (CRF) accurately in individuals with breast cancer.

This feasibility study will be led by LYIT research lecturers Dr William Scott and Dr James Connolly, in association with LUH research oncology nurse Mary Grace Kelly and consultant oncologist Dr Karen Duffy. CRF may affect up to 70% of those undergoing therapy or deemed to be in remission.

Study participants will wear one of Shimmer’s Verisense Inertial Measurement Units (IMUs) on their wrist to monitor their sleep patterns and activity levels continuously throughout the study.

The Verisense wearable sensor platform will improve the efficiency and management of this feasibility study through speed of data collection, as well as remote monitoring of patient participation.

Shimmer’s technology differs from typical off-the-shelf fitness trackers. The wearable sensor does not require regular charging, as its battery lasts for up to six months. The data is automatically uploaded to a remote cloud platform without any patient involvement. Geoffrey Gill, president of Shimmer Americas, said: “Research staff can remotely monitor patients’ activity and sleep levels, check whether patients are wearing their device, monitor sensor battery status, and reduce the amount of patient-researcher time required to run the clinical study.”

Dr Scott said: “Cancer-related fatigue – which is distinct from normal tiredness that may be resolved by periods of sleep or rest – is a well-recognised symptom of malignant breast disease.

“This type of fatigue recurs unpredictably and can result in unavoidable and unforeseen reduction in quality of life for those individuals affected. Management of this condition can also place a significant financial burden on health and social care facilities.”

Dr Connolly explained: “Previous research studies have suggested that modulations in the levels of certain plasma or salivary markers may be involved in the advancement of CRF symptoms. However, results from these studies are often conflicting and no individual marker or group of markers has been attributed to the cause of this fatigue. This has major implications for the development of predictive models of recurrence and the design of potential physiological and pharmacological interventions.”

Dr Scott added: “Our study aims to establish an accurate fatigue baseline for individuals diagnosed with breast cancer to determine relationships between potential fatigue markers, measurable daily activity and sleep, and individual perceptions of fatigue.”

Financial support for the development of the Verisense platform was provided in part by Enterprise Ireland.