Goodbye, 2022! Hello, 2023!

Looking back at my and my team’s journey in 2022, I see many junctions, traffic lights, stops and slides. Some of them raised us up, and others disappointed. We had to make decisions at the junctions and to reflect and revise the actions at the traffic lights and stops. Being patient is a gold skill. The good mix of everything kept us awake.

There were surprises on the way! Winning a research grant is not only hard work and sleepless nights, but it is also luck. Luck. Hard Luck. The funding pot is extremely small for too many high-scored innovative proposals.

My first 2022 win scored 99/100 and gave me an exciting opportunity to collaborate meaningfully with Prof Helen McCarthy, QUB. This was the highest ever score for my multiple applications over the years. So, this outcome also charged my sole and moulded my determination to do well that year.

However, my grant luck parked there until the end of 2022. Most applications missed the funding threshold by the 0.1 – 0.5 mark. So, another application complementary to the winning one landed on the reserve list… Needless to say, how I or any other researcher, feels seeing it.

A few weeks before Christmas, a positive emotional tsunami happened. I opened an email stating that the reserved proposal had received funding. Almost 10 months and 10 applications between two successful ones. Is not it hard luck?

However, it is not the number of grants received that matters; it is who is around you. My team has curiosity-driven students with big hearts who made this journey fascinating and special.

Goodbye, 2022!!!

So, how has 2023 started for me? Another surprise waited for me in the sealed envelope from the RCSI Vice Chancellor and CEO, Prof Kelly, after my return from holidays. I was nominated for the Positive Leader Award 2022 by my anonymous peers. This Nomination emotionally touched me and mattered more than if I had won this award. I am grateful to the people I work with.

Thank you to everyone who shared the 2022 journey with me!

Goodbye 2022, and Hello 2023!


We are the Cancer Bioengineering Group, and September is a very special month for us as it is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Childhood cancer is the 2nd leading cause of death in children after accidents. Our group researches childhood cancer neuroblastoma, a cancer of immature nerve cells. Neuroblastoma is responsible for approximately 15% of all childhood cancer deaths. Despite intensive multimodal treatment, as many as 1 in 5 children with the aggressive disease do not respond, and up to 50% of children that do respond experience disease recurrence with many metastatic tumours resistant to many drugs and more aggressive tumour behaviour that all too frequently results in death.

This is what we want to change! We believe that every child deserves a future, and our team of postgraduate researchers led by Dr Olga Piskareva is dedicated to strengthening our knowledge of this disease and identifying new potential ways to tackle it, as well as taking part in fundraising activities so our group and others can continue with this research.  

On Wednesday, the 21st of September, RCSI 123 SSG will #GoGold in support of this cause. Please come by to see the RCSI building lit up and share your pictures on social media with the hashtag #ChildhoodCancerAwarenessMonth to raise awareness.

RCSI Research Day 2022

Cancer Bioengineering Group thoroughly enjoyed getting back to in-person Research Day at RCSI after 2 years, we’re now very much looking forward to the IACR conference later this month! We will have 2 oral and 5 poster presentations at IACR 2022.

Dream Team in action

Welcome to the Cancer Bioengineering Group!

It is time for a full group presentation here at the blog! Throughout the month we shared about our group members and their research focus on Twitter. Now, we would like to share more about the group here and invite you to keep following us on social media. 

The Cancer BioEngineering Group is a research group led by Dr Olga Piskareva at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. The group has 6 PhD students developing research projects around neuroblastoma biology.  

Our projects address topics related to neuroblastoma microenvironment, cell interactions, tumour resistance and the development of new therapies. To do that we use 3D in vitro models, identify immunotherapeutic targets and evaluate extracellular vesicles.  

We are a dynamic group proud to be engaged in research, science communication and patient involvement. We do that through different initiatives.  

We support and collaborate with several neuroblastoma charities around Ireland and internationally such as the Conor Foley Neuroblastoma Foundation, the National Children Research Centre, the Children’s Health Foundation Crumlin and the Neuroblastoma UK. Moreover, our projects are funded by the Irish Research Council in partnership with these charities and by RCSI StAR PhD programmes.  

We promote neuroblastoma awareness through different activities. For instance, last September at the Childhood Cancer Awareness month we promoted a hiking challenge to raise money and increase awareness of neuroblastoma. We hiked for 30km at Wicklow mountains in a day and raised over € 2,000 for neuroblastoma research charities.  

We are also present in social media, creating content in the form of blog posts and tweets to share the science we are doing.  

We are always happy to answer questions and interact with the public. Follow us on our social media channels and read our blog to know more about us and our research.  

Thanks for reading and we go ahead with neuroblastoma research! 

Written by Luiza Erthal

Research Summer School Skills Workshop 2021

Yep, we are living in challenging and extraordinary times. The COVID19 changes and dictates rules, but training of future health professionals is going on.

Within a fantastic RCSI summer training programme for medical students, our team ran essential practicals on the isolation of genetic material and the use of polymerase chain reaction, known as PCR, to detect differences in normal and modified genomic DNA.

Polymerase Chain Reaction, or simply PCR, was conceived and validated by biochemist Kary Mullis in 1983. This discovery revolutionised many scientific fields that dealt with genetic material and was awarded a Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1993. PCR allows rapid generation of small identical fragments of DNA. The fragments can be visualised, their size and number can be calculated. It has become a standard procedure in molecular biology and pathobiology screening. The COVID19 PCR test is actually an advanced modification of Mullis’ invention.

All students successfully set up individual PCRs to our great satisfaction, and the results are presented at the right bottom corner.