A daughter's dedication to improving Alzheimer's care with advanced testing
Alzheimer’s disease can be a devastating illness—not just for the patients diagnosed with the disease, but for the caretakers in their life as well.
Dr. Marcia Eisenberg, PhD, chief scientific officer at Labcorp, knows all too well the overwhelming impact of Alzheimer’s disease after seeing her mom, Rosalind, experience the condition.
“I lost my mom to Alzheimer’s,” shares Dr. Eisenberg, who describes the disease as “unforgiving.”
“When I say ‘unforgiving,’ I mean it is a relentless progression,” she explains. “You can still see that person that you know and love; they’re still there, whether they actually know who you are or not.”
Navigating the complex role of caretaker in Alzheimer’s disease
More than 6 million people in the U.S. are living with Alzheimer’s disease. The illness causes cognitive impairment, affecting memory, thinking and behavior, and can be severe enough to interfere with daily tasks.
For caregivers of those living with Alzheimer’s, these cognitive effects can be draining and, at times, “strange,” says Dr. Eisenberg.
“Interestingly enough, out of all the things my mom didn’t remember, she never forgot who I was,” she explains, describing a “daily routine” that the two eventually fell into after her mom’s advancing disease.
“Every day, on my way home from the gym after work, I’d call my mom on Bluetooth from the car, and I never quite knew what version of her I would get,” explains Dr. Eisenberg. “As an Alzheimer’s patient, my mom was often angry, which is not unusual, but can still be very difficult to deal with. So, I built up my own sort of coping mechanism where I’d talk to her for a few minutes if she was ‘Angry Mom.’ Then I’d hang up, wait five minutes and call her back. I would do this maybe two or three times—however long it took until I got ‘Happy Loving Mom’ again, who, of course, had no idea that we’d just talked one, two or even three times before.”
No matter what, says Dr. Eisenberg, she would always make sure to end the conversation with “Happy Loving Mom.”
Advancing Alzheimer’s solutions for all
Dr. Eisenberg now finds herself working closely with the Labcorp neurology team on advancements that could accelerate the path to diagnosis and improve health outcomes for patients.
One of those advancements is Labcorp’s new ATN Profile, which combines three well-researched blood biomarkers into a single test that can demonstrate pathological evidence of Alzheimer’s disease.
Previously, these markers had only been available individually from various lab providers or for research in clinical trial settings. Now, with Labcorp’s ATN Profile, each of these blood biomarkers—amyloid (assessment of plaques), tau proteins (assessment of tangles) and degree of neurodegeneration (measured using our Nfl biomarker)—can provide direct evidence of disease pathology, independent of patient symptoms, using a single, noninvasive test. As an initial assessment for Alzheimer’s disease, our ATN Profile can help expedite referrals to neurologists for confirmatory testing and shorten the overall patient journey.
For Dr. Eisenberg, the work is close to her heart, as is helping others understand a disease that is often so personal. “I’m proud to be part of Labcorp’s mission to improve the lives of both Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers,” she shares. “My mom’s diagnosis was simple, but for so many, the path to getting a diagnosis can be complicated. With more advanced testing, we can help families, caregivers and loved ones find the answers they need.”
“With newer, less invasive tests like our ATN Profile, we can simplify \the clinical process of diagnosing Alzheimer’s and give patients and their loved ones the answers they need,” adds Dr. Joseph Volpe, PhD, neurology business segment and discipline director at Labcorp.