The research focus of Marina R. Walther-Antonio, Ph.D., is on the role of the human microbiome in women's health, in particular gynecologic cancers. Her goal is to use microbiome signatures to predict the development of malignancy and eventually intervene before it materializes.
Dr. Walther-Antonio is exploring the microbial-host interactions by bridging environmental microbiology methodologies and single-cell technologies utilized in astrobiological pursuits with clinical platforms with translational potential to patient care. Her research places interdisciplinarity at its core, with her research team being composed of scientists, physicians and engineers oriented in a problem-solving direction.
- Endometrial cancer microbiome biomarker development. Dr. Walther-Antonio is developing microbiome biomarkers whose presence can be utilized to predict the development of the disease. She is using benign endometrial biopsies of women who later developed the malignancy to identify whether the microbiome signature of the benign biopsies can predict the outcome and lead to early intervention.
- Microbiome role in endometrial cancer. Dr. Walther-Antonio found a particular microbiome signature in patients with endometrial cancer. She is now developing host-microbial tissue culture studies to determine the role of these microbes in the disease.
- Ovarian cancer microbiome signature. Dr. Walther-Antonio is exploring the ovarian cancer microbiome signature and investigating an early detection avenue for the disease by searching a microbiome signature through microbial amplification and sequencing.
- Role of the microbiome in ovarian cancer recurrent disease. Dr. Walther-Antonio is studying the microbiome impact in ovarian cancer recurrence with and without adjuvant metformin treatment in a clinical trial and patient-derived xenograft model.
- Single-cell microbial platform. Dr. Walther-Antonio is developing new technology that allows the manipulation and isolation of microbial cells. This allows the study of rare species in complex or low abundance communities, and the study of their impact on the host environment.
Significance to patient care
Dr. Walther-Antonio's research enables the study of the microbiome, an intrinsic yet understudied component of human health. Microbial cells, genes and metabolic capacity in our body outnumber those of our own cells and therefore are expected to play a vast role in the maintenance of health, disease predisposition, progression and outcome.
The work Dr. Walther-Antonio is developing in endometrial and ovarian cancers may lead to predictive and early detection tests, as well as intervention before cancer develops. Because manipulating the microbiome is less challenging than manipulating our own cells, this is a very promising therapeutic target.