In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month, we spoke to Debra Lyon, PhD, RN, FAAN, executive associate dean and the Thomas M. and Irene B. Kirbo endowed chair. Lyon’s research focuses on developing a better understanding of the biological underpinnings of breast cancer, specifically on a patient’s quality of life post-diagnosis/treatment, which can be adversely affected. According to Lyon, breast cancer patients often report a “constellation” of psychoneurological symptoms which include stress, anxiety, depression, pain, fatigue, sleep disturbance and cognitive dysfunction.
What sparked your interest in breast cancer research?
I am interested in holistic health. During my post-doctoral fellowship, I had the opportunity to study under a renowned nurse scientist, where I examined mind-body interactions and health. The public health impact of breast cancer, (required treatments and symptom burden) is an ongoing problem given its increasing incidence and prevalence, as well as its significant health-related economic and social consequences.
Could you provide an overview of your current breast cancer research?
My current, NIH-funded work focuses on illuminating potential metabolomics measures that are associated with PN symptoms in women with early-stage breast cancer. Our research team will continue to develop the requisite scientific background for refining phenotypes, metabolomics and integrated signatures that may form a basis for future biomarker risk assays, as well as targeted interventions to prevent and/or mitigate the severity of psychoneurological symptoms in women with breast cancer.
Could you describe any new/exciting developments in this field for breast cancer patients/survivors?
Because of their impact on increasing survivability, there is an increased emphasis on promoting mental and physical health in breast cancer survivors. For many women with breast cancer, this holistic focus permits them to consider enacting positive lifestyle behaviors that will support their health.