Researchers at UCD


Donal Brennan

Ucd Professor of Gynaecological Oncology

School of Medicine
Catherine McAuley Research Centre
Mater Misericordiae University Hospital
Eccles Street
Dublin 7




 Donal Brennan is a Clinician Scientist who graduated from University College Dublin School of Medicine in 2003.  He was awarded a PhD in cancer biology by University College Dublin in 2008. He undertook specialist training in Obstetrics and Gynaecology working in the National Maternity Hospital, Cork University Maternity Hospital, The Coombe and The Rotunda Maternity hospitals. During his specialist training, he also retained a post-doctoral position at the UCD Conway Institute of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science. His main research interests are in biomarker development, tumour inflammation and obesity related carcinogenesis.

He has received several awards for his research and was awarded European Young Researcher of the Year in 2010. He has over 60 peer-reviewed publications and has been named on 6 international patent applications. In 2012 he relocated to Brisbane to undertake subspecialist training in Gynaecological Oncology at the Queensland Centre for Gynaecological Cancer and also completed a fellowship in General and Colorectal surgery. He was also a visiting scientist at the QIMR-Berghofer Research Institute working closely with Prof Frank Gannon in the Control of Gene Expression group.

In 2015 he returned to Ireland to work in the Rotunda Hospital. He was appointed as UCD Professor of Gynaecological Oncology and Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecological Oncologist at the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital, the National Maternity Hospital and St Vincent's University Hospital in May 2016.


Honours and Awards

Year: 2012.
Title: Keith Free prize
Year: 2010.
Title: St Luke¿s Young Investigator Award
Year: 2010.
Title: European Young Researcher¿s Award
Year: 2008.
Title: 1st Place Irish Journal of Medical Science Doctors Awards Oncology Section
Year: 2006.
Title: O¿Connell Medal for Oncology Research


Association: Cancer Trials Ireland, Function/Role: Member
Association: International Society of Gynaecological Oncology, Function/Role: Member
Association: European Society of Gynaecological Oncology, Function/Role: Member
Association: Irish Society of Gynaecological Oncology, Function/Role: Secretary


Year 2003 Institution: UCD
Qualification: MB, BCh, BAO Subject: Medicine
Year 2008 Institution: Royal College of Physicians, Ir
Qualification: Other Subject:
Year 2016 Institution: Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists, London
Qualification: Certificate Subject:
Year 2008 Institution: Trinity College Dublin
Qualification: PhD Subject:



Peer Reviewed Journals

Lau, T. Y.,O'Connor, D. P.,Brennan, D. J.,Duffy, M. J.,Pennington, S. R.,Gallagher, W. M.; (2007) 'Breast cancer proteomics: clinical perspectives'. Expert Opin Biol Ther, 7 (2):209-19. Available Online [Details]
Brennan DJ , Moynagh M , Brannigan AE , Gleeson F , Rowland M , O'Connell PR; (2007) 'Routine mobilization of the splenic flexure is not necessary during anterior resection for rectal cancer'. Diseases of the Colon and Rectum, 50 :302-307. [Details]
O'Brien, S. L.,Fagan, A.,Fox, E. J.,Millikan, R. C.,Culhane, A. C.,Brennan, D. J.,McCann, A. H.,Hegarty, S.,Moyna, S.,Duffy, M. J.,Higgins, D. G.,Jirstrom, K.,Landberg, G.,Gallagher, W. M.; (2007) 'CENP-F expression is associated with poor prognosis and chromosomal instability in patients with primary breast cancer'. Int J Cancer, 120 (7):1434-43. [Details]
Brennan DJ, Kelly C, Rexhepaj E, Dervan PA, Duffy MJ, Gallagher WM.; (2007) 'Contribution of DNA and tissue microarray technology to the identification and validation of biomarkers and personalised medicine in breast cancer'. Cancer Genomics Proteomics, 4 (3):121-134. [Details]
O'Brien SL, Fagan A, Fox EJ, Millikan RC, Culhane AC, Brennan DJ, McCann AH,; (2007) 'CENP-F expression is associated with poor prognosis and chromosomal instability in patients with primary breast cancer'. International Journal of Cancer, 120 (7):1434-1443. [Details]
Duffy MJ, O'Donovan N, Brennan DJ, Gallagher WM, Ryan BM; (2007) 'Survivin: a promising tumor biomarker'. Cancer Letters, 249 (1):49-60. [DOI] [Details]
Rexhepaj, E., Brennan, D. J., Holloway, P., Kay, E. W., McCann, A. H., Landberg, G., Duffy, M. J., Jirstrom, K., and Gallagher, W. M. ; (2008) 'Novel image analysis approach for quantifying expression of nuclear proteins assessed by immunohistochemistry: application to measurement of estrogen and progesterone receptor levels in breast cancer'. Breast cancer research : BCR, 10 (5):R89. [DOI] [Details]
Brennan, D. J., Rexhepaj, E., O'Brien, S. L., McSherry, E., O'Connor, D. P., Fagan, A., Culhane, A. C., Higgins, D. G., Jirstrom, K., Millikan, R. C., Landberg, G., Duffy, M. J., Hewitt, S. M., Gallaghe, W. M., ; (2008) 'Altered cytoplasmic-to-nuclear ratio of survivin is a prognostic indicator in breast cancer'. Clinical Cancer Research, 14 (9):2681-2689. [Details]
Gallagher WM, Lanigan F, McKiernan E, Brennan DJ, Hegarty S, Millikan RC, McBryan J, Jirstrom K, Landberg G, Martin F, Duffy MJ, ; (2009) 'Increased claudin-4 expression is associated with poor prognosis and high tumour grade in breast cancer'. International Journal of Cancer, 124 (9):2088-2097. [DOI] [Details]
Brennan, D. J., Ek, S., Doyle, E., Drew, T., Foley, M., Flannelly, G., O¿Connor, D. P., Gallagher, W. M., Kilpinen, S., Kallioniemi, O-P., Jirstrom, K., O¿Herlihy, C., and Borrebaeck, C. A. K. ; (2009) 'The transcription factor Sox11 is a prognostic factor for improved recurrence-free survival in epithelial ovarian cancer'. European Journal of Cancer, 45 (8):1510-1517. [DOI] [Details]
McSherry, E. A., McGee, S. F., Jirstrom, K., Doyle, E. M., Brennan, D. J., Landberg, G., Dervan, P. A., Hopkins, A. M., and Gallagher, W. M. ; (2009) 'JAM-A expression positively correlates with poor prognosis in breast cancer patients'. International Journal of Cancer, 125 (6):1343-1351. [Details]
Brennan DJ, Robson MS, Murphy M, O¿Herlihy C. ; (2009) 'Comparative analysis of international caesarean delivery rates using 10-group classification identifies significant variation in spontaneous labor'. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 201 :308. [Details]
Ridge CA, McDermott S;Freyne BJ;Brennan DJ;Collins CD;Skehan SJ (2009) 'Pulmonary embolism in pregnancy: comparison of pulmonary CT angiography and lung scintigraphy'. American Journal of Roentgenology, 193 (5):1223-1227. [DOI] [Details]
Brennan, D. J., Brandstedt, J., Rexhepaj, E., Foley, M., Ponten, F., Uhlen, M., Gallagher, W. M., O'Connor, D. P., O'Herlihy, C., and Jirstrom, K; (2010) 'Tumour-specific HMG-CoAR is an independent predictor of recurrence free survival in epithelial ovarian cancer'. BMC Cancer, 10 :125. [Details]
Prencipe M, McGoldrick A, Perry AS, O'Grady A, Phelan S, McGrogan B, Fitzpatrick P, Watson JA, Furlong F, Brennan DJ, Lawler M, Kay E, McCann A.; (2010) 'MAD2 downregulation in hypoxia is independent of promoter hypermethylation'. Cell cycle (Georgetown, Tex.), 9 (14):2856-2865. [Details]
Ursini-Siegel, J., Cory, S., Zuo, D., Hardy, W. R., Rexhepaj, E., Lam, S., Schade, B., Jirstrom, K., Bjur, E., Piccirillo, C. A., DeNardo, D., Coussens, L. M., Brennan, D. J., Gallagher, W. M., Park, M., Pawson, T., Hallett, M. and Muller, W. J.; (2010) 'Receptor tyrosine kinase signaling in breast cancer cells inhibits the adaptive immune response to favor a pro-tumorigenic state'. Cancer Research, 70 (20):7776-7787. [Details]
Rexhepaj, E., Jirstrom, K., O'Connor, D. P., O'Brien, S. L., Landberg G., Duffy, M. J., Brennan, D. J., and Gallagher, W. M. ; (2010) 'Validation of cytoplasmic-to-nuclear ratio of survivin as an indicator of improved prognosis in breast cancer'. BMC Cancer, 10 :639. [Details]
Brennan, D. J., O'Connor, D. P., Rexhepaj, E., Ponten, F., and Gallagher, W. M. ; (2010) 'Antibody-based proteomics: fast-tracking molecular diagnostics in oncology'. Nature reviews. Cancer, 10 (9):605-617. [Details]
Ehlén A, Brennan DJ, Nodin B, O'Connor DP, Eberhard J, Alvarado-Kristensson M, Jeffrey IB, Manjer J, Brändstedt J, Uhlén M, Pontén F, Jirström K (2010) 'Expression of the RNA-binding protein RBM3 is associated with a favourable prognosis and cisplatin sensitivity in epithelial ovarian cancer'. Journal of translational medicine, 8 :78. [Details]
Rexhepaj E, Jirstrom K, O'Connor DP, O'Brien SL, Landberg G, Duffy MJ, Brennan DJ, Gallagher WM (2010) 'Validation of cytoplasmic-to-nuclear ratio of survivin as an indicator of improved prognosis in breast cancer'. BMC Cancer, 10 . [DOI] [Details]
Brennan DJ, McGee SF;Rexhepaj E;O'Connor DP;Robson M;O'Herlihy C (2011) 'Identification of a myometrial molecular profile for dystocic labor'. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, 11 . [DOI] [Details]
Sernbo S., Gustavsson E., Brennan D.J., Gallagher W.M., Rexhepaj E., Rydnert F., Jirström K., Borrebaeck C.A., Ek S. ; (2011) 'The tumour suppressor SOX11 is associated with improved survival among high grade epithelial ovarian cancers and is regulated by reversible promoter methylation'. BMC Cancer, 11 :405. [Details]
Coward J, Kulbe H, Chakravarty P, Leader D A, Vassileva V, Leinster D A, Thompson R, Schioppa T, Nemeth J A, Vermeulin J, Singh N, Avril N E, Cummings J, Rexhepaj E, Jirstrom K, Gallagher W M, Brennan D J, McNeish I A, Balkwill F R (2011) 'Interleukin-6 as a therapeutic target in human ovarian cancer'. Clinical Cancer Research, 17 (18):6083-6096. [Details]
Magnusson, K., de Wit. M., Brennan, D. J., Johnson, L. B., McGee, S. F., Lundberg, E., Naicker, K., Klinger, R., Kampf, C., Asplund, A., Wester, K., Gry, M., Bjartell, A., Gallagher, W.M., Rexhepaj, E., Kilpinen, S., Kallioniemi, O. P., Belt, E., Goos, J., Meijer, G., Birgisson, H., Glimelius, B., Borrebaeck, C. A., Navani, S., Uhlén, M., OʼConnor, D. P., Jirström, K., and Pontén, F. ; (2011) 'SATB2 in combination with cytokeratin 20 identifies over 95% of all colorectal carcinomas'. American Journal of Surgical Pathology, 35 (7):937-948. [Details]
Brennan, D. J., Laursen, H., O'Connor, D., Borgquist, S., Uhlén, M., Gallagher, W. M., Ponten, F., Millikan, R. C., Ryden, L., and Jirstrom, K.; (2011) 'Tumor specific HMG-CoA reductase expression in primary pre-menopausal breast cancer predicts response to tamoxifen'. Breast Cancer Research, 13 (1):R12. [Details]
Dahlman, A., Rexhepaj, E., Brennan, D. J., Gallagher, W. M., Gaber, A., Lindgren, A., Jirström, K., and Bjartell, A; (2011) 'Evaluation of the prognostic significance of MSMB and CRISP3 in prostate cancer using automated image analysis'. Modern Pathology, 24 (5):708-719. [Details]
DeNardo D.G., Brennan D.J., Rexhepaj E., Ruffell B., Shiao S.L., Madden S.F., Gallagher W.M., Wadhwani N., Keil S.D., Junaid S.A., Rugo H.S., Hwang E.S., Jirström K., West B.L. and Coussens L.M.; (2011) 'Leukocyte Complexity Predicts Breast Cancer Survival and Functionally Regulates Response to Chemotherapy'. Cancer Discovery, . [Details]
Sernbo S, Gustavsson E, Brennan DJ, Gallagher WM, Rexhepaj E, Rydnert F, Jirstrom K, Borrebaeck CA, Ek S (2011) 'The tumour suppressor SOX11 is associated with improved survival among high grade epithelial ovarian cancers and is regulated by reversible promoter methylation'. BMC Cancer, 11 (405). [Details]
Brennan DJ, McGee SF, Rexhepaj E, O'Connor DP, Robson M & O'Herlihy C. (2011) 'Identification of a Myometrial Molecular Profile for Dystocic Labor'. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth, 1 (11):74. [Details]
Brennan DJ, Murphy M;Robson MS;O'Herlihy C (2011) 'The singleton, cephalic, nulliparous woman after 36 weeks of gestation: contribution to overall cesarean delivery rates'. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 117 (2 Pt 1):273-279. [DOI] [Details]
Shireen R, Brennan D;Flannelly G;Fennelly D;Lenehan P;Foley M (2012) 'Survival in women with ovarian cancer before and after the introduction of adjuvant paclitaxel; a 25-year, single institution review'. Irish Medical Journal, 105 (2):47-50. [Details]
Furlong F, Fitzpatrick P;O'Toole S;Phelan S;McGrogan B;Maguire A;O'Grady A;Gallagher M;Prencipe M;McGoldrick A;McGettigan P;Brennan D;Sheils O;Martin C;W Kay E;O'Leary J;McCann A (2012) 'Low MAD2 expression levels associate with reduced progression-free survival in patients with high-grade serous epithelial ovarian cancer'. Pathology, 226 (5):746-755. [DOI] [Details]
Horgan SJ, Margey R;Brennan DJ;O'Herlihy C;Mahon NG (2012) 'Natural history, management, and outcomes of peripartum cardiomyopathy: an Irish single-center cohort study'. Journal of Maternal-Fetal and Neonatal Medicine, 26 (2):161-165. [DOI] [Details]
Hehir MP, Laursen H, Higgins MF, Brennan DJ, O'Connor DP, McAuliffe FM (2012) 'Maternal and fetal cocaine- and amphetamine-regulated transcript in diabetic and non-diabetic pregnancy'. Gynecological Endocrinology, 28 (9):682-685. [DOI] [Details]
Furlong F, Fitzpatrick P, Phelan S, Maguire A, McGrogan B, Prencipe M, McGoldrick A, McGettigan P, Brennan D, Gallagher M, Sharon O'Toole S, Sheils O, O'Grady A, Kay EW, O'Leary J, McCann A. (2012) 'Low MAD2 expression associates with reduced progression free survival in patients with serous papillary epithelial ovarian cancer'. Journal of Pathology, 226 (5):746-755. [Details]
Brennan DJ, O'Connor DP, Laursen H, McGee SF, McCarthy S, Zagozdzon R, Rexhepaj E, Culhane AC, Martin FM, Duffy MJ, Landberg G, Ryden L, Hewitt SM, Kuhar MJ, Bernards R, Millikan RC, Crown JP, Jirstrom K, Gallagher WM (2012) 'The cocaine- and amphetamine-regulated transcript mediates ligand-independent activation of ERα, and is an independent prognostic factor in node-negative breast cancer'. Oncogene, 31 (30):3483-3494. [DOI] [Details]
Kulbe H, Chakravarty P, Leinster DA, Charles KA, Kwong J, Thompson RG, Coward JI, Schioppa T, Robinson SC, Gallagher WM, Galletta L; Australian Ovarian Cancer Study Group, Salako MA, Smyth JF, Hagemann T, Brennan DJ, Bowtell DD, Balkwill FR (2012) 'A dynamic inflammatory cytokine network in the human ovarian cancer microenvironment'. Cancer research, 72 (1):66-75. [Details]
Hehir MP, Laursen H, Higgins MF, Brennan DJ, O'Connor DP & McAuliffe FM (2012) 'Ghrelin concentrations in maternal and cord blood of Type 1 diabetic and non-diabetic pregnancies at term'. Endocrine journal, . [Details]
Brennan DJ, O'Connor DP, Laursen H, McGee SF, McCarthy S, Zagozdzon R, Rexhepaj E, Culhane AC, Martin FM, Duffy MJ, Landberg G, Ryden L, Hewitt SM, Kuhar MJ, Bernards R, Millikan RC, Crown JP, Jirström K, Gallagher WM (2012) 'The cocaine- and amphetamine-regulated transcript mediates ligand-independent activation of ERα, and is an independent prognostic factor in node-negative breast cancer'. Oncogene, 31 (30):3483-3494. [DOI] [Details]
Mitchem JB, Brennan DJ, Knolhoff BL, Belt BA, Zhu Y, Sanford DE, Belaygorod L, Carpenter D, Collins L, Piwnica-Worms D, Hewitt S, Udupi GM, Gallagher WM, Wegner C, West BL, Wang-Gillam A, Goedegebuure P, Linehan DC, DeNardo DG. (2013) 'Targeting tumor-infiltrating macrophages decreases tumor-initiating cells, relieves immunosuppression, and improves chemotherapeutic responses'. Cancer Research, 73 (3):1128-1141. [DOI] [Details]
Hehir, M.P. and Laursen, H. and Higgins, M.F. and Brennan, D.J. and O'Connor, D.P. and McAuliffe, F.M. (2013) 'Ghrelin concentrations in maternal and cord blood of Type 1 diabetic and non-diabetic pregnancies at term'. Endocrine, 43 (1):233-235. Available Online [DOI] [Details]
Hackethal A, Brennan DJ, Land R, Nascimento M, Nicklin J, Obermair A. (2013) 'Feasibility and outcomes of ureteroureterostomy and extravesical ureteroneocystostomy as part of radical surgery for infiltrating gynecologic disease'. International Journal of Gynecological Cancer, . [Details]
O Leary PC, Penny SA, Dolan RT, Kelly CM, Madden SF, Rexhepaj E, Brennan DJ, McCann AH, Pontén F, Uhlén M, Zagozdzon R, Duffy MJ, Kell MR, Jirström K, Gallagher WM (2013) 'Systematic antibody generation and validation via tissue microarray technology leading to identification of a novel protein prognostic panel in breast cancer'. BMC Cancer, 13 . [DOI] [Details]
O Leary PC, Terrile M, Bajor M, Gaj P, Hennessy BT, Mills GB, Zagozdzon A, O'Connor DP, Brennan DJ, Connor K, Li J, Gonzalez-Angulo AM, Sun HD, Pu JX, Pontén F, Uhlén M, Jirström K, Nowis DA, Crown JP, Zagozdzon R, Gallagher WM. (2014) 'Peroxiredoxin-1 protects estrogen receptor alpha from oxidative stress-induced suppression and is a protein biomarker of favorable prognosis in breast cancer'. Breast Cancer Research, . [Details]
Brennan DJ, Hackethal A, Metcalf AM, Coward J, Ferguson K, Oehler MK, Quinn MA, Janda M, Leung Y, Freemantle M; ANECS Group., Webb PM, Spurdle AB, Obermair A. (2014) 'Serum HE4 as a prognostic marker in endometrial cancer--a population based study'. Gynecologic Oncology, . [Details]
Hawkes AL, Quinn M, Gebski V, Armes J, Brennan D, Janda M; feMME Trial Committee., Obermair A. (2014) 'Improving treatment for obese women with early stage cancer of the uterus: rationale and design of the levonorgestrel intrauterine device ± metformin ± weight loss in endometrial cancer (feMME) trial'. Contemporary Clinical Trials, . [Details]
McGrogan B, Phelan S, Fitzpatrick P, Maguire A, Prencipe M, Brennan D, Doyle E, O'Grady A, Kay E, Furlong F, McCann A. (2014) 'Spindle assembly checkpoint protein expression correlates with cellular proliferation and shorter time to recurrence in ovarian cancer'. Human Pathology, 45 (7):1509-1519. [DOI] [Details]
Brennan DJ, Schulze B, Chetty N, Crandon A, Petersen SG, Gardener G, Perrin L. (2015) 'Surgical management of abnormally invasive placenta: a retrospective cohort study demonstrating the benefits of a standardized operative approach'. Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica, . [Details]
Hedström E, Pederiva C, Farnebo J, Nodin B, Jirström K, Brennan DJ, Farnebo M. (2015) 'Downregulation of the cancer susceptibility protein WRAP53β in epithelial ovarian cancer leads to defective DNA repair and poor clinical outcome'. Cell Death and Disease, . [Details]
Brennan DJ, Hackethal A, Mann KP, Mutz-Dehbalaie I, Fiegl H, Marth C, Obermair A. (2015) 'Serum HE4 detects recurrent endometrial cancer in patients undergoing routine clinical surveillance'. BMC Cancer, . [Details]
Murphy M, Butler M, Coughlan B, Brennan D, O'Herlihy C, Robson M (2015) 'Elevated amniotic fluid lactate predicts labor disorders and cesarean delivery in nulliparous women at term'. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 213 (5):6730-6738. [DOI] [Details]
Harrington BS, He Y, Davies CM, Wallace SJ, Adams MN, Beaven EA, Roche DK, Kennedy C, Chetty NP, Crandon AJ, Flatley C, Oliveira NB, Shannon CM, deFazio A, Tinker AV, Gilks CB, Gabrielli B, Brennan DJ, Coward JI, Armes JE, Perrin LC, Hooper JD. (2016) 'Cell line and patient-derived xenograft models reveal elevated CDCP1 as a target in high-grade serous ovarian cancer'. British Journal of Cancer, . [Details]


Research Interests

1. Obesity Related Carcinogenesis.

I have an active research group in collaboration with Prof Carel Le Roux examining the underlying molecular mechanisms of obesity induced carcinogenesis. We are using cell line and animal models to investigate this. We are also developing clinical studies to investigate the effect of intentional weight loss on endometrial cancer biology.I am also a senior investigator on the first randomised study of weight loss as a treatment of endometrial cancer - the FeMMe trial is recruiting patients in Australia at present.

2.  Precision Medicine Solutions for Ovarian Cancer.
We are currently developing novel predictive assays to improve patient stratification in ovarian cancer. In collaboration with Prof Gil Lee, Prof Walter Kolch and collaborators in RCSI and Queens we are developing novel, high throughput, multicellular 3D cell culture models 


Internal Collaborators

Prof William Gallagher
Prof Carel LeRoux 
Prof Gil Lee
Prof Walter Kolch 
Dr Tom Flanagan 

External Collaborators

Dr Darran O'Connor (RCSI)
Prof Tracy Robson (RCSI)
Dr Triona Ni Chonghaile (RCSI)
Prof Richard Kennedy (QUB)