Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center

Suzanne C. Lechner, Ph.D.

Suzanne C. Lechner, Ph.D.

Research Associate Professor of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences

Description of Research

Dr. Lechner’s research program focuses on adaptation to cancer among cancer survivors and newly diagnosed individuals, with a particular focus on populations that suffer from health disparities. Dr. Lechner leads biobehavioral clinical intervention trials to examine whether psychological, physical and physiological adjustment is modifiable using stress management and other biobehavioral interventions. Using a psychoneuroimmunology approach, Dr. Lechner’s survivorship laboratory is currently examining the effects of stress management and cancer wellness interventions 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 test theoretically-driven and empirically-supported psychosocial interventions for underserved women with breast cancer within a community setting. In addition to her work in the various Black communities of South Florida, her research in health disparities extends to Hispanic Spanish-speaking women and young adults (who are a recognized health disparities population). Dr. Lechner favors community-engaged research methods to ascertain the needs and preferences of populations by directly seeking input from members of the community and engaging stakeholders and health professionals in the process. Armed with information from these groups, she designs psychosocial oncology interventions based on evidence-based behavioral medicine practice. An expert on the topic of benefit-finding and posttraumatic growth, Dr. Lechner’s research program also examines the development of positive perceptions of cancer, such as deepened personal relationships, enhanced personal strength, or clearer priorities. Her work has shown that benefit-finding and posttraumatic growth.

Highlights

  • Black breast cancer survivors who participated in a stress management and breast cancer wellness and education program that was specifically designed for underserved Black women showed significant improvements in quality of life, less anxiety, lower stress, and fewer symptoms of depression over a six-month follow-up window.
  • Stress management interventions and breast cancer wellness and education interventions can be effectively tailored to meet the needs of low-income and underserved Black breast cancer survivors.
  • Stress management interventions and breast cancer wellness and 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.
  • 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.
  • Benefit finding and posttraumatic growth can occur in the presence of significant psychological distress, and some level of distress is likely to be necessary to initiate a search for meaning in cancer.

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 »

Programs

Collaborating in the Multidisciplinary Research Program(s):

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