When I was first exposed to research, I was an undergraduate engineering student helping a new professor set up their first lab, I realized I loved the medical application of research. I developed an interest in immunology — particularly stem cell, transplant and cancer therapy — and this aligned with my learning as a junior medical student. As my training continued, I began to care for cancer patients. I was thrilled that I would not only be able to care for cancer patients and continue the research, but that I could see my research applied and take my clinical observations back to the lab to focus on clinically relevant problems.
What I like about the research side is that we get all the information. Working with all the data enables us to be absolutely sure about what we are finding. It’s really satisfying because you're solving problems no one has ever solved before. If you’re missing some data, you can design another experiment to find the answer you need – medical research is a very creative task! Also, the problems I see with patients on the clinical side directly inform the research questions I think are important. For example, I have patients who are suffering severe infections after transplant because their immune systems haven't recovered well, so one of my research areas is focused on immune reconstitution and how we can make that better.
I’m interested in how the intestinal microbiome interacts with transplant complications. The gut is fascinating, with trillions of bugs sitting on an intestinal surface area equivalent to two tennis courts. Subduing the patient’s immune system in preparation for transplant wreaks havoc on this biome. The treatments that people have before transplant (for example, leukemia induction therapy) and the transplant process itself are both linked with damage to the intestinal microbiome. This is probably due to big changes in diet, antibiotic treatment and chemotherapy itself. I want to learn how to treat target the intestinal microbiome in the future to improve patient outcomes. Perhaps we can help the microbiome recover faster, or maybe we can do less damage to the microbiome during treatment so that patient recovery is faster and more successful.
Impact of Gut Microbiota on Patient Health During Hematopoietic-Cell Transplantation
Dr. Kate Markey studies the intersection between the microorganisms in patients' intestines — the gut microbiome — the immune system, and the outcomes of immune-based cancer treatments. These include bone marrow transplantation and cellular immunotherapies. One focus area of her research is graft-vs.-host disease, or GVHD, in which immune cells from the donor attack the patient's healthy cells. She is learning how the microbiome interacts with the immune system to influence the development of GVHD and the effectiveness of transplant in controlling cancer. Dr. Markey is also a physician who cares for patients undergoing transplant. She uses data and observations from the clinic to inform her laboratory research, which in turn is aimed at improving patient care.
Malignant Blood Disorders
Non-malignant Blood Disorders
Solid Organ Malignancies
Doctor of Philosophy, Immunology
University of Queensland, Australia
The University of Queensland Medical School
Masters in Clinical Research
Monash University, Australia
Chemical Engineering, University of Queensland, Australia
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