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Melissa Alderfer, PhD

Melissa Alderfer PhD

Staff Psychologist

Associate Professor of Pediatrics, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

Contact Melissa Alderfer, PhD


  • Department: Pediatrics
  • Division: Oncology
  • Primary Address:
    Division of Oncology, Room 1485
    The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
    34th & Civic Center Blvd.
    Philadelphia, PA 19104
  • 215 590-4364


    Dr. Alderfer conducts research on family adjustment to childhood cancer. She has projects investigating the adjustment of siblings of children with cancer; the decision making process when one child needs a bone marrow transplant and siblings may serve as donors, and the efficacy and effectiveness of family-based interventions to improve the well-being of family members and the adherence of adolescents to cancer treatment.


    • Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology in Pediatrics at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (2013 – 2013)
    • Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (2004 – 2013)


    • PhD, Clinical Psychology, University of Utah, Graduate School (2001)
    • MS, Clinical Psychology, University of Utah, Graduate School (1994)
    • MSEd, Psychological Services in Education, University of Pennsylvania, Graduate School of Education (1990)
    • BA, Biological Basis of Behavior, University of Pennsylvania (1989)

    Extended Bio

    Melissa A. Alderfer, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, a Psychologist in the Division of Oncology and Director of the Postdoctoral Psychology Fellowship Training Program at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). Including her fellowship training in the Division of Oncology at CHOP, mentored by Dr. Anne E. Kazak, Dr. Alderfer now has more than 10 years of experience in psychosocial oncology. She has over 50 peer-reviewed publications and chapters and has won awards for her work including the 2007 Donald K. Routh Early Career Award from the Society of Pediatric Psychology. She is currently on the editorial boards for Journal of Pediatric Psychology and Health Psychology.

    Dr. Alderfer’s research uses a social ecology framework to conceptualize and understand the ways in which childhood cancer impacts families. Her work aims to develop interventions to improve adjustment to childhood cancer for all family members within their homes, communities /schools, and the hospital. A primary focus of her research is healthy siblings of children with cancer and she has obtained funding from the National Cancer Institute, Lance Armstrong Foundation, Department of Defense, and American Cancer Society to learn more about the adjustment of siblings. Next, she plans to develop intervention programs for siblings in both the hospital and their schools. Dr. Alderfer is also investigating family-based problem solving interventions to improve adherence of children and adolescents with leukemia, has studied parent and child interventions to improve well-being during hospitalization for stem cell transplant, and with her colleagues at CHOP has developed and evaluated family-based interventions to prevent or alleviate cancer-related posttraumatic stress. She is currently planning additional family-based intervention studies including parent-teen based problem-solving interventions.


    • Long Kristin A, Marsland Anna L, Alderfer Melissa A. Cumulative family risk predicts sibling adjustment to childhood cancer.. Cancer. Vol 119(13) . 2013 Jul:2503-10.
    • Kaplan Lynne M, Kaal K Julia, Bradley Lauren, Alderfer Melissa A. Cancer-related traumatic stress reactions in siblings of children with cancer.. Families, systems & health : the journal of collaborative family healthcare. Vol 31(2) . 2013 Jun:205-17.
    • Marsac Meghan L, Hildenbrand Aimee K, Clawson Kathleen, Jackson Leela, Kohser Kristen, Barakat Lamia, Kassam-Adams Nancy, Aplenc Richard, Vinsel Anne, Alderfer Melissa A. Acceptability and feasibility of family use of The Cellie Cancer Coping Kit.. Supportive care in cancer : official journal of the Multinational Association of Supportive Care in Cancer. Vol 20(12) . 2012 Dec:3315-24.
    • Long Kristin A, Alderfer Melissa A, Ewing Linda J, Marsland Anna L. The Role of Contextual Threat in Predicting Self-Reported Distress among Siblings of Children with Cancer.. Journal of clinical psychology in medical settings. Vol 20(2) . 2012 Sep:199-208.
    • Buchbinder David, Mertens Ann C, Zeltzer Lonnie K, Leisenring Wendy, Goodman Pam, Lown E Anne, Alderfer Melissa A, Recklitis Christopher, Oeffinger Kevin, Armstrong Gregory T, Hudson Melissa, Robison Leslie L, Casillas Jacqueline. Cancer prevention and screening practices of siblings of childhood cancer survivors: a report from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study.. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, 21. Vol 21(7) . 2012 Jul:1078-88.
    • Phipps Sean, Peasant Courtney, Barrera Maru, Alderfer Melissa A, Huang Qinlei, Vannatta Kathryn. Resilience in children undergoing stem cell transplantation: results of a complementary intervention trial.. Pediatrics. Vol 129(3) . 2012 Mar:e762-70.
    • Pentz Rebecca D, Pelletier Wendy, Alderfer Melissa A, Stegenga Kristin, Fairclough Diane L, Hinds Pamela S. Shared decision-making in pediatric allogeneic blood and marrow transplantation: what if there is no decision to make?. The oncologist. Vol 17(6) . 2012:881-5.
    • Buchbinder David, Casillas Jacqueline, Krull Kevin R, Goodman Pam, Leisenring Wendy, Recklitis Christopher, Alderfer Melissa A, Robison Leslie L, Armstrong Gregory T, Kunin-Batson Alicia, Stuber Margaret, Zeltzer Lonnie K. Psychological outcomes of siblings of cancer survivors: a report from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study.. Psycho-oncology. Vol 20(12) . 2011 Dec:1259-68.
    • Hildenbrand Aimee K, Clawson Kathleen J, Alderfer Melissa A, Marsac Meghan L. Coping with pediatric cancer: strategies employed by children and their parents to manage cancer-related stressors during treatment.. Journal of pediatric oncology nursing : official journal of the Association of Pediatric Oncology Nurses. Vol 28(6) . 2011 Nov-Dec:344-54.
    • Kazak Anne E, Barakat Lamia P, Ditaranto Susan, Biros Daniel, Hwang Wei-Ting, Beele David, Kersun Leslie, Alderfer Melissa A, Mougianis Ifigenia, Hocking Matthew C, Reilly Anne. Screening for psychosocial risk at pediatric cancer diagnosis: the psychosocial assessment tool.. Journal of pediatric hematology/oncology. Vol 33(4) . 2011 May:289-94.