Awardee Spotlight: Katie Sharkey, MD, PhD

Katie Sharkey, MD, PhD, received an R01 from the National Institute for Mental Health.

Congratulations, Katie Sharkey, MD, PhD!

Dr. Sharkey was recently awarded an R01 from the National Institute for Mental Health for her research on perinatal depression. Dr. Sharkey is a recipient of an Advance-CTR Grant Resubmission award and also consulted with our Service Cores to prepare her proposal for submission.

  • Katie Sharkey, MD, PhD

    Katie Sharkey, MD, PhD

    Assistant Dean for Women in Medicine and Science, Associate Professor of Medicine, Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior

The Study

"Personalized Integrated Chronotherapy for Perinatal Depression" (R01, NIMH)

Disrupted sleep is ubiquitous among expectant and new mothers and is associated with perinatal depression and anxiety. My team and I have previously shown that changes in light exposure patterns during pregnancy and the postpartum period are associated with circadian rhythm dysregulation and that these circadian alterations are related to perinatal depression. Although bright light therapy has been used to treat prenatal depression, this intervention has not been adapted widely and there are no studies testing circadian rhythm interventions to prevent postpartum depression.

My team and I developed an integrated sleep-circadian intervention called “personalized integrated chronotherapy” (PIC) to prevent postpartum depression that includes morning bright light and an earlier and stabilized sleep schedule. In our pilot R34 study, we showed that women with major depressive disorder during pregnancy who received PIC in addition to treatment as usual (TAU) had significantly fewer depression symptoms than women receiving TAU alone at 36 weeks of gestation and at 6 weeks and 6 months postpartum.

We were recently awarded an R01 to perform a multi-site confirmatory efficacy trial to test the PIC intervention for treating depression during pregnancy and preventing postpartum depression in a larger sample. We will also examine purported mechanisms of the PIC intervention and explore related biomarkers in the mother-infant dyad.

How Advance-CTR Helped

Advance-CTR supported our work both through access to specialized expertise and infrastructure as well as financial assistance through the Grant Resubmission Award. Through this funding, I was able to purchase the equipment that allowed us to pilot the PIC intervention at the other study sites. Demonstrating that we could run the protocol at all study sites was critical to obtaining R01 funding.

I also consulted with the Service Cores on the submission. The R01 proposal benefited enormously from the Biostatistics Core’s support to analyze our R34 pilot data and assist with the data management; the Biomedical Informatics Core provided key assistance in helping me develop the methods for the R01 proposal. Ultimately, my proposal received an 11-point bump upon resubmission and was selected for funding. 

Now that we are finally getting the study up and running, we continue to work with Biostatistics Core members on the infrastructure needed to run a multi-site clinical trial successfully and to comply with reporting requirements and other benchmarking and data quality assessments.

“ This intervention could change clinical care and have a major public health impact ... [it] may be of particular use among women who are reluctant to take medications for depression during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.

What's Next

Perinatal depression is a serious mood disorder that causes suffering, can lead to suicide in new mothers, and results in poor maternal/child outcomes. This study will determine if a non-pharmacologic treatment for depression (personalized integrated chronotherapy) is efficacious in pregnant and postpartum women seeking care for perinatal depression in an outpatient setting.

This intervention could change clinical care and have a major public health impact due to the high prevalence of perinatal depression, and may be of particular use among women who are reluctant to take medications for depression during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.  We are excited to explore whether this intervention can have a positive impact on the infants whose mothers receive our novel intervention.