Prof. Luciana Lagana Marks Her 18th Year of Research Collaboration with the Stanford Psychosocial Treatment Laboratory with an Article on Couples with Breast Cancer

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The latest result of the long-standing collaboration between CSUN Professor Luciana Lagana and the research team of Professor David Spiegel at Stanford University is an informative article on group therapy options for couples living with breast cancer.

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I watched for 2 years how dedicated to clinical research David, Cheryl, and the other lab members are, and I use that memory to constantly motivate my work.

The article by Luciana Lagana, Pat Fobair, and David Spiegel, entitled “Targeting the Psychosexual Challenges Faced by Couples with Breast Cancer: Can Couples Group Psychotherapy Help?” and published online by the Journal of Women’s Health Care, is available to the public at http://omicsgroup.org/journals/targeting-the-psychosexual-challenges-faced-by-couples-with-breast-cancer-can-couples-group-psychotherapy-help-2167-0420.1000205.php?aid=32946. In it, the authors extended the use of the manualized and empirically validated Supportive-Expressive group therapy (SEGT) model to target the specific psychosexual needs of couples with breast cancer. Based on their clinical experience utilizing this group therapy model with different patient populations, they have discussed how clinicians involved in the psychosexual care of oncology patients could apply such a model within a couples group therapy format.

This publication marks the 18th year of research collaboration between the Behavioral Medicine Laboratory of Professor Luciana Lagana at California State University Northridge (CSUN) and the Psychosocial Treatment Laboratory of Professor David Spiegel, M.D., at the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences of Stanford University School of Medicine. Lagana was accepted into Spiegel’s laboratory to conduct post-doctoral research in 1996 for 2 years. Missing those exciting times of her research development, just prior to becoming a professor, she enthusiastically stated that “those 2 years went by too quickly. I still remember rushing to the post office late in the evening with David to meet federal grant submission deadlines, back in the days when we actually sent research grant applications via mail. It was such a wonderful time that I will always cherish.”

Lagana is thrilled to still be a part of this group of Stanford researchers, including Professor Cheryl Koopman, with whom she co-authored several publications on HIV, pain, depression, and gynecological cancer. “Working in the lab with Cheryl and Rebecca Caldwell Sacerdoti allowed me to write the first draft of a gynecological cancer grant that produced several publications on the psychosexual problems of women with this kind of cancer,” shared Lagana, who is now an established professor in the Psychology department of CSUN. She teaches many classes, mentors undergraduate and graduate students, and conducts federally funded research on women’s health and on older adults’ psychosocial needs. “My department is a very exciting place to work,” she commented. Indeed, as indicated on the department’s website, “a recent report from the National Science Foundation confirmed that more graduates of (the CSUN Psychology) department completed Ph.D. programs than graduates from any other non-Ph.D. granting university in the country.”

Lagana is currently combining her research experience with her passion for cinematography as she applies for grants to fund a social issue documentary on physical pain in older age. “I originally trained in pain assessment and management at the Department of Psychiatry of the University of Chicago Medical School. Working at Stanford with David and his team further motivated me to do my very best to alleviate pain and suffering, as my first Stanford article was on pain and depression among HIV patients. I watched for 2 years how dedicated to clinical research David, Cheryl, and the other lab members are, and I use that memory to constantly motivate my work.”

Pat Fobair is another committed clinician and researcher who is part of the Stanford research team, and who co-authored the 2014 article on couples with breast cancer. “There is a pressing need for interventions that address the interpersonal needs and communication changes among couples where one spouse has had cancer treatment. SEGT group therapy offers a therapeutic environment for couples to share with each other thoughts and feelings they've previously withheld due to fear of hurting the other person, or for fear that sharing them might change something basic in the relationship. The nature of the SEGT group bolsters members’ expression of worries, with them often finding that similar feelings and thoughts are mirrored by others,” concluded Fobair.

Luciana Lagana is a caring clinical and experimental psychologist. She is also an established professor of psychology, gerontology, sexuality, and women’s health at CSUN, where she teaches classes and mentors many students. Additionally, she conducts government-funded research on ethnically diverse, primarily low-income older women’s physical, psychological, social, and sexual health. Concerning her artistic pursuits, since 2006, she has been studying acting and hosting in Los Angeles. She is an award-winning actress/screenwriter/director with 43 IMDb credits for acting in many independent movies and TV series. She also created, hosted, and directed the 4-times award-winning educational project “Dr. Luciana Show – Aging and Falling.”

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