Suzanne C. Lechner, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences
Description of Research
Dr. Lechner’s research in psycho-oncology focuses on positive adaptation to cancer and health disparities among cancer survivors. Dr. Lechner leads biobehavioral clinical trials and performs longitudinal research studies to examine how people adjust to illness and whether psychological, physical and physiological adjustment is modifiable using stress management and breast cancer education. Dr. Lechner’s survivorship laboratory is currently examining the effects of stress management interventions on immunological, endocrine, and psychological outcomes for black women with breast cancer who have recently completed treatment. This research program, dubbed Project CARE, is supported by the National Cancer Institute (NIH). The goal of this line of research is to develop theoretically-driven and empirically-supported psychosocial interventions for underserved women with breast cancer within a community setting.
Dr. Lechner is also examining the development of positive and negative perceptions of breast cancer through the cancer experience. This area of investigation examines the construct of benefit-finding (the perception that having cancer has certain benefits, such as deepened personal relationships, enhanced personal strength, or clearer priorities about what is important in life).
She has a strong research interest in the field of Psychoneuroimmunology. In collaboration with Dr. Bonnie Blomberg and Dr. Mike Antoni, the team is examining the psychophysiologic mechanisms associated with cancer morbidities among black women. This research is being funded by the Interdisciplinary Research Development Initiative.
Other research interests include psychosocial interventions for minorities and Spanish-speaking individuals living with cancer, cancer survivorship, and long-term follow-up of participants who have completed biobehavioral intervention trials.
- Stress management interventions and breast cancer education interventions can be effectively tailored to meet the needs of low-income and underserved black women.
- Stress management improves quality of life for women diagnosed with non-metastatic breast cancer via reductions in intrusive thoughts, lowered anxiety, enhanced relaxation skills and improved psychological states of mind. Such changes are associated with reductions in cortisol and changes in immune functioning, particularly cytokines, reflecting better immunoregulation.
- Stress management interventions and breast cancer education programs are perceived by underserved Black breast cancer survivors as highly valuable and relevant to their daily lives. The programs showed extremely high attendance rates, despite participants’ other responsibilities and commitments. The retention rate for the project was an astonishing 95% over the course of six months of follow-up.
Selected Cancer-Related Publications
- Antoni MH, Lutgendorf SK, Blomberg B, Carver CS, Lechner S, Diaz A, Stagl J, Arevalo JM, Cole SW. Cognitive-behavioral stress management reverses anxiety-related leukocyte transcriptional dynamics. Biol Psychiatry 71:366-72,2012 Read more »
- Kobetz E, Menard J, Dietz N, Hazan G, Soler-Vila H, Lechner S, Diem J, Auguste P. Contextualizing the survivorship experiences of haitian immigrant women with breast cancer: opportunities for health promotion. Oncol Nurs Forum 38:555-60,2011 Read more »
- Traeger L, Penedo FJ, Benedict C, Dahn JR, Lechner SC, Schneiderman N, Antoni MH. Identifying how and for whom cognitive-behavioral stress management improves emotional well-being among recent prostate cancer survivors. Psychooncology :,2011 Read more »
- Vargas S, Wohlgemuth WK, Antoni MH, Lechner SC, Holley HA, Carver CS. Sleep dysfunction and psychosocial adaptation among women undergoing treatment for non-metastatic breast cancer. Psychooncology 19:669-73, 2010 Read more »
- Zhou ES, Penedo FJ, Bustillo NE, Benedict C, Rasheed M, Lechner S, Soloway M, Kava BR, Schneiderman N, Antoni MH. Longitudinal effects of social support and adaptive coping on the emotional well-being of survivors of localized prostate cancer. J Support Oncol 8:196-201,2010 Read more »
- Zhou ES, Penedo FJ, Lewis JE, Rasheed M, Traeger L, Lechner S, Soloway M, Kava BR, Antoni MH. Perceived stress mediates the effects of social support on health-related quality of life among men treated for localized prostate cancer. J Psychosom Res 69:587-90,2010 [JIF 2.908] Read more »
Collaborating in the Multidisciplinary Research Program(s):