Congratulations to Dr. Ashlee Loughan on recieving an American Cancer Society Institutional Research Grant (ACS IRG) for her grant proposal entitled," Managing Cancer and Living Meaningfully (CALM) in patients with malignant primary brain tumors". Dr. Loughan is one of few neuropsychologists addressing psychological and health-related outcomes in brain tumor patients.
Dr. Loughan is a licensed clinical neuropsychologist by training. She was recruited to Virginia Commonwealth University in 2015 as an Assistant Professor in Neurology, School of Medicine. At that time, Dr. Loughan accepted the great responsibility of developing a Neuropsychological and Quality of Life Program for patients with brain tumors within the Massey Cancer Center, Division of Neuro-oncology. Her first few years as faculty were spent identifying population needs, developing standard-of-care evaluation procedures, building a referral base, and improving targeted interventions specific to the neurologic complications following brain tumor diagnosis and treatment. Her clinical experience informed multiple internally-funded research projects (VCU School of Medicine Deans Summer Fellowship Awards - $7500 total). Using an empirical approach, Dr. Loughan explored the prevalence of distress during routine neuro-oncology clinic visits. Findings revealed high depression, death anxiety, and sleep disturbance; which have been linked in the literature with adverse mental health, medical noncompliance, increased health care utilization, and relational distress in caregivers – all supporting the need for focused evidence-based interventions. In 2018, Dr. Loughan was invited to become a member of the Global Managing Cancer and Living Meaningfully (CALM) Program (based at the University of Toronto, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre), an international initiative to train clinicians in distress interventions (e.g., CALM), gather evidence about the implementation in diverse settings, and make such interventions a standard-of-care for people facing advanced cancer. In 2019, Dr. Loughan was honored as a finalist at the Society for Neuro-oncology (SNO) Young Investigators Forum in Atlanta, GA where she presented her initial findings of distress in brain tumor patients. In addition, her specialty training in neuropsychology and extensive experience in oncology make her well-poised to investigate behavioral interventions in neuro-oncological populations, especially in those identified with mild neurocognitive disorder. In 2020, Dr. Loughan was invited to join the Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology, assisting in the design and analysis of cognitive and quality of life correlates in neuro-oncology cooperative trails. She now holds memberships in the Neuro-oncology Committee, Health Outcomes Committee, and Symptom Intervention Committee.
Long term, Dr. Loughan’s is committed to pursuing a career as an independent oncology investigator who conducts practice-changing cancer prevention and control research that will improve patient outcomes. In support of this goal, she has successfully established a multidisciplinary research lab (LiveNOW Lab) with members including postdoctoral fellows, psychology graduate students, medical students, and undergraduate students; created a neuropsychological data registry; implemented a needs assessment for sleep disturbance; and led multiple clinical trials examining death-related distress and attention and working memory interventions - all in brain tumor populations. In total, Dr. Loughan has authored 35 peer-reviewed manuscripts, 9 invited book chapters, and produced over 90 abstracts at local, national, and international conferences, mostly focused on understanding and improving the quality-of-life of brain tumor patients. In 2019, Dr. Loughan was recognized as a VCU Emerging Scholar. This program, sponsored by VCU's Center for Clinical and Translational Research, affirms the institution's support for Dr. Loughan and their recognition in her strong potential for future success.
In addition to recieving the ACS IRG, Dr. Loughan was also awarded Massey Cancer Prevention and Control Research Accelerator Monies ($3250). Both awards will greatly help to further her pursuit in improving the lives of neuro-oncology patients!