Grantee: Erin Costanzo, PhD

Erin Costanzo

Erin Costanzo, PhD

Health Psychologist and Behavioral Scientist
  • University of Wisconsin - Madison

Dr. Costanzo's research focuses on contributions of psychosocial factors to the health and well-being of cancer patients, and the biobehavioral pathways underlying these relationships, with the translational goal of developing targeted behavioral interventions for individuals with cancer. This work draws on her background in behavioral medicine, psychoneuroimmunology, and cancer control, and benefits from close, multidisciplinary collaborations.

The current project directed by Dr. Costanzo investigates the effect of mood disturbance on the reconstitution of innate and adaptive immunity and clinical complications following hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT). While these types of relationships have been documented in other cancer populations, studies have not been conducted among hematologic cancer patients undergoing HSCT. The clinical significance may be particularly salient in this population given the critical role of the timing and sequence of immune restoration in preventing recurrence, reducing morbidity, and ensuring survival. In addition to the effects of mood disturbance, Dr. Costanzo's research team is investigating potential resilience factors, including the presence of supportive social relationships and the patient's ability to find meaning or perceive some benefit in their experience with cancer. They are also using novel immunophenotyping and flow cytometry methods to assess cellular markers of immune reconstitution.

Preliminary findings demonstrated that depression and anxiety were associated with a delayed recovery of lymphocyte sub-populations during the first three months following HSCT, while social support showed a protective influence. Dr. Costanzo's team is continuing to collect data to determine the strength of these findings in a larger sample and over a longer follow-up period, as well as the extent to which these associations may play a role in the occurrence of infections after HSCT. Dr. Costanzo recently received an NCI- sponsored career development award that will allow her to extend this work and begin to use the findings to develop tailored behavioral interventions to improve recovery following HSCT.

My personal experience as a cancer survivor and my clinical work with cancer patients has not only stimulated my research hypotheses and passions, but also highlighted the importance of translational work.”