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Merluzzi's research is in an area of health psychology referred to as psychooncology. Psychooncology is the scientific study of the interface of the medical and psychological aspects of cancer.  Within psychooncology, he studies, among other things, coping and social support processes in people with cancer and cancer survivors from the perspective of social learning theory and, in particular, self-regulation and self-efficacy theories.


"What are you fighting for" video on Prof. Merluzzi's research


Below is a link to a very short video highlighting Prof. Merluzzi's work: 

       Video - American Cancer Society 

Four Current Areas of Research

1. Assessment of Self-efficacy for Coping with Cancer

Development and refinement of the Cancer Behavior Inventory (CBI; Merluzzi & Martinez Sanchez, 1997; Merluzzi et al., 2001; Heitzmann, Merluzzi et al., 2011; Merluzzi et al., 2018), a widely-used measure of self-efficacy for coping with cancer.

The CBI  has been translated into many languages including the published Italian version of the Brief CBI (Serpentini, Del Bianco, Chirico, Merluzzi, et al., 2019) and the Korean version of  CBIV3.0 (Lee, Merluzzi, Choi, & Lee, 2021). Recent projects: NIH PROMIS measure of coping self-efficacy (Salsman, Schalet, Merluzzi, et al., 2019); meta-analysis of self-efficacy outcomes in RCT interventions for cancer patients (Merluzzi, Pustejovsky, et al., 2019) and a multivariate (canonical correlation) approach to analyzing components of interventions including coping efficacy (Merluzzi, Zhang, Philip, Lee, & Salamanca-Balen, N., 2022). Finally, a recent project (Chirico, Palombi, Alivermini, Lucidi, & Merluzzi, 2024) focused on new methodology, network analysis, to represent the configuration and relationships among symptoms that can result in tailored interventions for distress. State-of-the-art network analysis was used to derive a symptom-level view of distress (depression and anxiety) and resource factors (coping and social support), which reinforced the utility of seeking  and maintaining social support in the context of cancer. 

PLEASE NOTE...The latest long (V3.0) and short (Brief Form) versions of the CBI  are available on the Measures page of this website and through the links below.

Cancer Behavior Inventory (V3.0)

Cancer Behavior Inventory (V2.0) 

Cancer Behavior Inventory (Brief Form)

For versions in languages other than English, please email me at tmerluzz@nd.edu. The translated versions are not vetted by my lab, therefore, I cannot vouch for quality of the translated measures, except for the Italian version of the Brief 12-item CBI (CBI-Brief Form-Italian); Serpentini et al, 2019) and the Korean version of the 27-item CBI V3.0 (CBI3.0-Korean; Lee et al, 2021)


2. Survivorship, Coping with Stressors, Social Support, COVID-19

2.a. Development of a stage-based model of the transition from cancer treatment to cancer survivorship (Philip, Merluzzi, Zhang et al., 2013; Merluzzi et al, 2016; Philip & Merluzzi, 2016) and to pallitaive care. Recent projects include a natural language analyses of stages of survivorship (Misiti, Kosidowski, Prendergast, Merluzzi, 2019; Kosidowski, Lamoretti, Wright, Salamanca-Balen & Merluzzi, 2021; Merluzzi, Salamanca Balen, Kurapatti, Misiti, & Kosidowski, 2021) and a model of palliative care that integrates agency, hope and uncertainty into stages of palliative care from early palliative care to hospice and terminal care (Merluzzi, Salamanca-Balen et al, 2024).

2.b. Assessment of coping models of cancer and cancer survivorship. These studies focus on coping with issues outside of the diagnosis and treatment of cancer that affect the lives of persons with cancer, for example life stress (Merluzzi, Chirico, et al., 2019), comorbities (Merluzzi, Philip, Gomer et al., 2021), discrimination Merluzzi, Philip, Zhang, & Sullivan,  2015; Merluzzi, Salamanca-Balen & Philip, under editorial review), and the combination of physical symptoms and life problems (Merluzzi, Zhang, Philip, Lee & Salamanca-Balen, 2022).

2.c. Development of a new perspective on social support, Social Relationship Coping Efficacy, that focuses on optimizing one's  social network in the context of seriouis illness (Merluzzi, Serpentini, et al., 2019; Charos, Merluzzi et al., 2021; Serpentini et al., 2022).

Social Relationship Coping Efficacy Scale (SRCE): A measure of self-efficacy for maintaining and enhancing social relationships and social support for persons with cancer.

A copy of the SRCE scale and scoring procedures are contained on the Measures page of this website

2.d. COVID-19 studies of persons with cancer.  Work in this area is focused on stress resistance resources (e.g., resilience, tolerance of uncertainty, benefit finding, hope) and their role in mediating the relationship between stress related to the COVID-19 pandemic and quality of life in persons with cancer in early 2020, prior to the availablility of vaccines.  One study investigated the relative effects of tolerance of uncertainty in mediating the relationship between COVID-19-pandemic stress and quality of life outcomes for those with and without a diagnosis of cancer (Salamanca-Balen, Qiu, & Merluzzi, 2022). A current study (Merluzzi, Salamanca-Balen & Wright, in preparation) is a comparative analysis of mediational qualities of classes of resilience skills during the COVID-19 pandemic for persons with and without cancer. Finally, another study (Merluzzi & Salamanca-Balen, in preparation) focuses on an examination of resilience theory, especiallly the value of distinguising the role of resilience and coping in the context of pandemic stress.


3. “Letting Go” – Religious/Spiritual Perspectives on Relinquishing Control and Religious Coping

Integration of modern psychological theory with traditional approaches to religious/spiritual coping in persons with cancer (Nairn & Merluzzi, 2003; Merluzzi, 2007; Howsepian & Merluzzi, 2009; Sherman, Merluzzi et al, 2015).

Projects focus on the historical, theoretical/conceptual and practical aspects of relinquishing control or “letting go” (Merluzzi & Philip, 2017; Serpentini, Capovilla, & Merluzzi, 2016) and a theory of hope that integrates uncertainty and control and contextualizes primary and secondary control (e.g., 'letting go") (Salamanca Balen & Merluzzi, 2021). A recent project investigated the mechanism of meaning/peace in the relationship between "letting go" and quality of life outcomes (Merluzzi, Philip, Salamanca-Balen, & Salsman, 2023). Along these same lines, a theoretical paper that appeared in the journal Cancers focuses on reconciling the paradox of palliative care in which patients are encouraged to be agents of their care and, at the same time, accept the uncertainty of their disease and remain hopeful (Merluzzi, Salamanca-Balen, Philip, Salsman, & Chirico,  2024).

Below is a Saturday Scholar Series lecture on Professor Merluzzi's research on "Letting Go" (approximately 55 minutes)


Watch a short video on Letting Goprepared by Jean-François Dars and Anne Papillault as part of their Historie Courteseries


Read an essay on spiritual coping –  Dad And Jimmy Carter  by Tom Merluzzi


4. Psychosocial Issues in Racial Health Disparities

Project are focused on a threshold-restraint theory that explains the impact of perceived discrimination on the quality of life of African Americans with cancer (Merluzzi, Philip, Zhang, & Sullivan, 2015). In an attempt to dig deeper into the threshold-restraint theory, a recent study investigated the role of coping in the relationship between perceived subtle and overt microaggressions and quality of life for African American and Caucasian cancer patients (Merluzzi, Salamanca-Balen, & Philip, 2024). An interesting feature of this project is the finding that adaptive disengagement coping (an emotionally healthier form of disengagment than denial disengagment) was used by African American cancer patient in improving quality of life, but was not used by Caucasian American cancer patients.  Thus, adaptive disengagment may be uniquely useful for African American cancer patients to enhance quality of life.


All measures, including the Caregiver Inventory, are available on the Measures page of this website

Complete citations are listed in Publications and Measures pages