U. Margaretha Wallon, PhD

Headshot of U. Margaretha Wallon, PhD

Resident Faculty

Assistant Professor

Dr. Wallon is spearheading translational research in oncology, in particular biomarkers to predict nausea in patients who will undergo chemotherapy (MyNauseaRisk) and for prognosis and treatment of triple-negative breast cancers. Her lab also is testing cryoablation as autovaccination for breast cancers.

About

  • 2006–Present: Adjunct Assistant Professor, Sidney Kimmel College of Medicine, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia
  • 2007–Present: Adjunct Assistant Professor, St. Joseph’s University, Philadelphia
  • 2015–Present: Assistant Professor, Lankenau Institute for Medical Research

Research Descriptions

Background

Breast cancer is not one disease; rather, it consists of many subtypes, each with its own characteristics and clinical difficulties. One subgroup that is particularly problematic to treat are those who have been diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), that is, cancers lacking the receptors for estrogen, progesterone and HER2. Without the presence of those receptors, patients have no clinical benefit from traditional therapies such as tamoxifen, anastrozole and trastuzumab that target the receptors. Thus, such patients have only radiation and chemotherapy as treatment options.

Being diagnosed with TNBC does not always result in early recurrence or death, although these patients are at a higher risk for such outcomes. And yet some patients survive without further complications. The dilemma is to identify those patients.

TIMP-4: prognostic and predictive biomarker: Dr. Wallon’s lab has identified a novel prognostic marker for breast cancer: the tissue inhibitor metalloproteinase-4 (TIMP-4). This marker is especially relevant for the TNBC subgroup, because TIMP-4-positive patients have shorter progression-free and overall survival.

Her lab is studying how TIMP-4 in the tumor microenvironment causes aggressive growth and metastatic spread of breast cancer cells. Her team studies TIMP-4-induced changes in surgical specimens obtained from consented patients through collaborations with oncology surgeons at Lankenau Medical Center. Those changes are further evaluated in laboratory and preclinical models of cancer development, progression and metastasis.

Predicting incidences of nausea; Another project that Dr. Wallon is working on involves predicting the incidence of nausea in patients scheduled to undergo chemotherapy or surgery. Nausea is the most dreaded and traumatic part of chemotherapy, according to patient surveys.

Prior to the method developed by Dr. Wallon’s lab, there was no objective test to identify patients at high risk for developing nausea. Working with physicians and clinical laboratory staff at the Lankenau Medical Center, Dr. Wallon is advancing the use of this test to stratify patients in need of more effective preventive treatments to obtain the goal of eliminating nausea.

Future directions

Dr. Wallon’s research is focused on understanding the role of TIMP-4 in breast cancer development, progression and metastasis with the aim to identify better treatments for TIMP-4- positive breast cancers. Her lab is also actively perusing the adaptation of the predictive nausea test into a clinically suitable protocol.

About her lab

Dr. Wallon’s lab has established a biorepository consisting of de-identified samples from breast cancer patients. These patient samples have been taken at time of surgery, and before, during and after chemotherapy treatments. For more information, please contact Dr. Wallon.

Lab personnel

  • Emily Kunkel, MD, surgical resident
  • Vibha Ahuja, PhD, biomedical research assistant

Publications

  • The quest for reliable prediction of chemotherapy-induced delayed nausea among breast cancer patients. McCourt DD, Parikh K, Brady AL, Wang Y, Kennedy J, Buckley ME, Ali ZA, Shevade AL, Gilman PB, Wallon UM. J Unexplored Med Data 2019;4:6.
  • Preliminary evaluation of a predictive blood assay to identify patients at high risk of chemotherapy-induced nausea. Kutner T, Kunkel E, Wang Y, George K, Zeger EL, Ali ZA, Prendergast GC, Gilman PB, Wallon UM.Support Care Cancer. 2016 Oct 12
  • Lactoferrin-endothelin-1 axis contributes to the development and invasiveness of triple-negative breast cancer phenotypes. Ha NH, Nair VS, Reddy DN, Mudvari P, Ohshiro K, Ghanta KS, Pakala SB, Li DQ, Costa L, Lipton A, Badwe RA, Fuqua S, Wallon M, Prendergast GC, Kumar R. Cancer Res. 2011 Dec 1;71(23):7259-69. Epub 2011 Oct 17.
  • Development of a monoclonal antibody that specifically detects tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase-4 (TIMP-4) in formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded human tissues. Donover PS, Wojciechowski BS, Thirumaran R, Zemba-Palko V, Prendergast GC, Wallon UM. J Cell Biochem. 2010 Aug 1;110(5):1255-61.
  • Tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase-4 is elevated in early-stage breast cancers with accelerated progression and poor clinical course. Liss M, Sreedhar N, Keshgegian A, Sauter G, Chernick MR, Prendergast GC, Wallon UM. Am J Pathol. 2009 Sep;175(3):940-6. Epub 2009 Aug 21.
  • Polyamines modulate carcinogen-induced mutagenesis in vivo. Wallon UM, O'Brien TG. Environ Mol Mutagen. 2005;45(1):62-9.
  • Epiblast cells that express MyoD recruit pluripotent cells to the skeletal muscle lineage. Gerhart J, Neely C, Stewart B, Perlman J, Beckmann D, Wallon M, Knudsen K, George-Weinstein M. J Cell Biol. 2004 Mar 1;164(5):739-46. Epub 2004 Feb 23.
  • Domain interactions in the gelatinase A.TIMP-2.MT1-MMP activation complex. The ectodomain of the 44-kDa form of membrane type-1 matrix metalloproteinase does not modulate gelatinase A activation. Overall CM, Tam E, McQuibban GA, Morrison C, Wallon UM, Bigg HF, King AE, Roberts CR. J Biol Chem. 2000 Dec 15;275(50):39497-506.

Education and Training

Education

  • BSc, Animal Physiology
    University of Lund
  • PhD, Animal Physiology
    University of Lund

Academic Titles

  • 2006–Present: Adjunct Assistant Professor, Sidney Kimmel College of Medicine, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia
  • 2007–Present: Adjunct Assistant Professor, St. Joseph’s University, Philadelphia
  • 2015–Present: Assistant Professor, Lankenau Institute for Medical Research