Heather M. Walline, Ph.D.

Research Assistant Professor, Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery


Dr. Walline is a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery and a member of the Rogel Cancer Center. She holds both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Biology, and was the first graduate from the University of Michigan Cancer Biology doctoral program in 2013. In addition to her academic accomplishments, Dr. Walline spent a significant amount of her early career in industry, working in molecular diagnostics and pharmaceutical development.

Areas of Interest

There are two primary research areas in the Walline lab: 1) Contribution and mechanism of HPV in carcinogenesis, progression, and outcome in oropharyngeal and other virally-induced cancers; and 2) Clinical relevance of molecules from tumor extracellular vesicles (EV) in HNSCC, including diagnosis, prognosis, and disease monitoring.

Current projects in the lab include molecular characterization of tumor EV oncogenic factors (protein, oncogenic transcripts, mutant DNA) from pretreatment patient saliva and plasma; assembly of tumor EV profiles for diagnostic validation, patient-specific query in follow-up/post-treatment liquid biopsies, and treatment response/ outcome; and mechanistic studies to improve understanding of tumor EV transfer of oncogenic factors to recipient cells.