Grantee: Suzanne Miller

Suzanne Miller

Suzanne Miller, PhD

Clinical Health Behavioral Scientist and Researcher
  • Fox Chase Cancer Center

Suzanne M. Miller, Ph.D., currently serves as Professor and Director of the Psychosocial and Behavioral Medicine Program at Fox Chase Cancer Center/Temple Health and is also an Adjunct Professor at both the University of Pennsylvania and Temple University. Her research program is guided by an overarching focus on the interface between psychology and oncology, particularly with a view to applying personalized behavioral principles to help bridge the gap between the availability of groundbreaking cancer control technologies and the populations they are meant to serve.

Specifically, Dr. Miller draws on her clinical skills as well as theoretically and empirically guided observations to develop strategies to increase the effectiveness of cancer prevention and control programs. A central feature of this work has been to identify the distinctive ways in which individuals make decisions, adjust to risk information, and manage recommended medical regimens. Much of her recent work has explored the ways in which patient-centered approaches to improve decision-making, adherence, and quality of life can be enhanced and tailored through the use of technology as an adjunct to medical care across the cancer continuum. An important focus of this research is her abiding commitment to assessing and addressing the challenges faced by early stage cancer patients as they navigate treatment decisions and the transition from the active treatment phase to long-term survivorship challenges. Survivors represent a growing success for the field but also an underserved population whose long-term needs are often not well met by the current clinical infrastructure.

Dr. Miller was the Co-PI of a recently completed novel Program Project Grant: Cancer Information Service Research Consortium and the PI of the Intervention and Development Core, which involved the development and evaluation of three large randomized trials to test the impact of web-based multimedia programs to facilitate quality treatment decision making among early stage prostate cancer (Project 1) and breast cancer (Project 2) patients, as well as to prepare breast cancer patients for life after treatment (Project 3).

Leveraging this work, Dr. Miller is the PI of the recently developed web-based program titled PROGRESS (Prostate Cancer Online Guide and Resources for Electronic Survivorship Service), which is designed to promote adaptive coping, as well as physical and emotional function, among prostate cancer patients as they transition from active treatment to survivorship. As part of this study, patients randomized to the web-based intervention not only receive state of the science information (tested for health and cultural literacy) but also a program that is also uniquely targeted to phase of survivorship post-treatment (1-2 months, 3-4 months, and 5-6 months), as well as tailored to motivate men to set survivorship goals in important domains of life function and to actively track progress toward those goals as an integral part of participation.

Dr. Miller is also Co-PI of an innovative NIH-funded grant titled Extended Cancer Education for Longer-term Survivors (EXCELS) in Primary Care, which extends this work to a broad sample of cancer survivors in the primary care setting where most patients are managed in the long-term and where models of survivorship care are urgently needed.

Dr. Miller's theoretical and empirical work on establishing the importance of matching communication content and style to the specific psychosocial characteristics of the target population represents a key feature of these studies and her contribution to the field more broadly. Her projects all derive conceptually from an integrative theory-based framework, the Cognitive-Social Health Information Processing (C-SHIP) model. This model delineates how different types of individuals cognitively and affectively process information about cancer threats and prevention-control options and act (or fail to act) on information and feedback conveyed.

Dr. Miller has pioneered work on the seminal distinction between two main cognitive-affective signature styles: monitors (who seek out, attend to, and amplify disease-relevant information) and blunters (who distract from and attenuate disease-relevant information). She is the originator of the Monitor-Blunter Style Scale, which has been translated into several languages and employed cross-culturally in research on the efficacy of tailored interventions designed to help monitors and blunters overcome their distinctive cognitive, emotional, and practical barriers to the understanding and uptake of cancer prevention-control regimens.

I have an abiding commitment to promoting coping and adjustment during the transition from patient to survivor in early stage cancer, stemming from my clinical observations that this period not only represents a triumph -- but also a long-term challenge with unmet needs -- for patients and their care providers.”

Selected Grants