Frank Penedo, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Psychology
Description of Research
Psycho-Oncology, Chronic Disease Management, Health Disparities & Sociocultural Processes in Chronic Disease
Part of Dr. Penedo’s research program has been devoted to examining the role of psychosocial factors such as aging, stress, coping, and personality style in psychological distress and physical health status in men treated with radical prostatectomy or radiation for localized prostate cancer, men treated with hormonal therapy for advanced prostate cancer, women with ovarian cancer, and men and women diagnosed with head and neck cancer.
His research with these chronic disease groups is primarily focused on evaluating the efficacy of group- and individual-based stress management interventions on reducing distress, and improving quality of life (QoL) and physical health status among older cancer populations ( > 50 years). Dr. Penedo is particularly interested in how psychosocial factors such as stress, coping, and personality style may interact with health behaviors (e.g., treatment adherence), neuroendocrine function, and the age-related decrements in immune function (e.g, immunosenescence, shifts towards Th2 and pro-inflammatory cytokine profiles), and cortisol output (e.g., disrupted diurnal slope) seen in older populations. More specifically, he is interested as to how stress and other psychosocial factors may interact with, and exacerbate, age-related decrements in immune function on the one hand, and disease progression in older cancer populations on the other. Within these projects, Dr. Penedo also examines the role of sociocultural factors in chronic disease management with a specific focus on Hispanic cancer survivors.
Several of the research questions involved in Dr. Penedo’s work aim to answer the following:
- Whether psychosocial factors impact neuroendocrine and immune parameters in chronically ill older adults (e.g., does psychological stress-related activation of the HPAC-axis and cortisol output lead to suppressed immunity, particularly shifts in specific T-cell and cytokine subpopulations, inflammatory markers and angiogenic factors?)
- Whether the extent to which age-related decrements in immunity can be exacerbated (or buffered) by psychosocial factors (e.g., are there protective psychosocial factors such as coping repertoires or personality styles that may buffer the effects of distress on immune function or age-related decrements in immunity? Can psychosocial interventions modify these factors in order to sustain or enhance immunity on the one hand, and ameliorate disease progression on the other?)
- The clinical implication of the impact of psychosocial factors on neuroendocrine and immune function in older chronically ill populations (e.g., what is the clinical significance—disease progression, improved physical health status—of the relation between psychosocial factors and neuroendocrine and immune function in older adults?)
- The extent to which sociocultural processes (e.g., cancer fatalism, acculturation) impact adjustment to cancer treatment and health outcomes among Hispanic cancer survivors
In an effort to answer these questions, Dr. Penedo is involved in several biobehavioral oncology studies evaluating the role of psychosocial factors and psychosocial interventions, on quality of life, immune function, and health status.
- A ten-week stress management intervention, teaching relaxation, coping skills, and other techniques in a supportive group was found to improve urinary functioning, sexual functioning, and overall quality of life in men treated for Stage I-II prostate cancer.
- Effects of stress management intervention in improving QoL, adjustment and sexual function were observed in Hispanic white, non-Hispanic white, and African-American English-speaking and Spanish-speaking men as well as those treated with either surgery, beam radiation, or seed radiation therapy; suggesting that this form of intervention may be effective across a wide population of men with prostate cancer.
- Effects of stress management intervention were strongest in those men who gained the most stress management skills during the intervention. This work implies that comprehensive stress management programs that teach a variety of stress management techniques such as muscle relaxation, cognitive restructuring, coping skills, and interpersonal skills may improve quality of life in prostate cancer patients.
- Evidence-based and manualized stress management programs for Spanish monolingual prostate cancer survivors can be linguistically and culturally adapted, and have shown preliminary efficacy in improving quality of life in this population.
- Current studies are evaluating the efficacy of a telephone-based stress management intervention among men treated with hormonal therapy for advanced prostate cancer while examining psychosocial, endocrine and immune pathways that may promote adjustment. In a related prospective study, we are examining psychosocial adjustment among newly diagnosed prostate cancer patients. In the prospective study, men are assessed prior to treatment and over a two-year period following treatment. Both studies are evaluating psychosocial, sociocultural (e.g., cultural values, ethnic factors) and biobehavioral factors (e.g., endocrine and immune markers) and disease activity in this population. In more recent work, we are evaluating the efficacy of a patient navigation intervention combined with the Lance Armstrong Foundation LIVESTRONG program in improving quality of life among Hispanic breast, colorectal and prostate cancer survivors.
Selected Cancer-Related Publications
- Lutgendorf SK, Degeest K, Sung CY, Arevalo JM, Penedo F, Lucci J 3rd, Goodheart M, Lubaroff D, Farley DM, Sood AK, Cole SW. Depression,social support,and beta-adrenergic transcription control in human ovarian cancer. Brain Behav Immun 23:176-83, 2009. Read more »
- Fekete EM, Antoni MH, Lopez CR, Durán RE, Penedo FJ, Bandiera FC, Fletcher MA, Klimas N, Kumar M, Schneiderman N. Men's serostatus disclosure to parents: associations among social support, ethnicity, and disease status in men living with HIV. Brain Behav Immun 23:693-9, 2009. Read more »
- Gallo LC, Penedo FJ, Espinosa de Los Monteros K, Arguelles W. Resiliency in the Face of Disadvantage: Do Hispanic Cultural Characteristics Protect Health Outcomes? J Pers 77:1707-1746, 2009. Read more »
- Traeger L, Penedo FJ, Gonzalez JS, Dahn JR, Lechner SC, Schneiderman N, Antoni MH. Illness perceptions and emotional well-being in men treated for localized prostate cancer. J Psychosom Res 67:389-97, 2009. Read more »
Collaborating in the Multidisciplinary Research Program(s):