by Joyce Lee
Shana Stites, Psy.D., a Penn Memory Center Scholar, has been awarded the Dale Schenk Alzheimer’s Association Research Roundtable Grant Award. Dr. Stites is a clinical psychologist and researcher studying the experience of living with a biomarker-based diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.
Advances in Alzheimer’s research, such as ApoE4 gene and beta-amyloid biomarker testing, are identifying persons at risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease dementia. These advances in defining the “preclinical” stages of the disease are opportunities to discover therapies to slow or prevent the onset of clinical disease. These same advances also present challenges to patients, their families and society.
“The Alzheimer’s Association is pleased to recognize Dr. Shana Stites’ exceptional work with the Dale Schenk Alzheimer’s Association Research Roundtable Grant Award,” said Heather M. Snyder, Ph.D., Senior Director of Medical and Scientific Operations at the Alzheimer’s Association. “As the field moves toward earlier detection of Alzheimer’s, Dr. Stites’ research will help inform changes in policies and practices for interventions designed to improve the quality of life of persons who have been identified as being at risk for Alzheimer’s but who have not yet developed symptoms.”
Dr. Stites’ research focuses on understanding the psychological and social challenges individuals face after learning they have preclinical Alzheimer’s disease.
“We’re finding that after a person learns they’re at risk for developing Alzheimer’s, they often struggle with stigma,” Dr. Stites said. “They worry about feeling inferior to others or that they may be treated differently if others find out – like losing lose their jobs or important relationships.” Dr. Stites studies participants in research that discloses a biomarker result as well as persons in early stages of clinical disease, such as those with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and mild Alzheimer’s disease dementia to inform clinical practice and policies to prevent or mitigate stigma and enhance quality of life.
The award honors its namesake, Dr. Dale Schenk, a leader in Alzheimer’s research whose pioneering discoveries opened up a novel approach to Alzheimer’s therapeutics. His insight was that immunotherapy could potentially treat Alzheimer’s, research that has led to the development of dozens of immunotherapies. He was also a founding member and first Chair of the Research Roundtable.
Through the Research Roundtable, the Alzheimer’s Association brings together industry leaders and top scientists from around the world to discuss key areas in Alzheimer’s science in a precompetitive platform. The Roundtable convenes twice each year for coverage of topics identified by Roundtable members as the most current critical needs. At a future convening of the Roundtable, Dr. Stites will be invited to speak on her research. She’ll have the opportunity to update roundtable members on her research, and discuss how people are impacted by learning they’re at risk for developing Alzheimer’s and what she sees as some of the most pressing issues.