Marlys Hearst Witte, MD

Professor, Surgery
Email Address: 
Phone Number: 
(520) 626-6118

UACC Information

UACC Organizational Unit(s): 
Professional Bio: 

As Professor of Surgery and Director of Student Research, University of Arizona College of Medicine, and Secretary-General of the 42-nation International Society of Lymphology, Dr. Witte is engaged in intense activities in clinical and basic lymphology – the study of lymphatics, lymph, lymphocytes, and lymph nodes in health and disease.

Her translational interests and contributions have ranged from blood/lymphatic vascular endothelial cell biology and pathobiology in vitro and in vivo, hepatosplanchnic lymphatic/microcirculatory physiology, small animal models, in vivo lymphatic imaging, thoracic duct lymph drainage, lymphogenous cancer spread, and genomics/proteomics of lymphedema-angiodysplasia syndromes in man, mice, and other animal models, including defects, deficiency, and overexpression of lymphangiogenesis genes VEGFR3 and FOXC2 (human) and Vegfc, Angiopoietin 2, and prox-1 (mouse) and their syndromic/phenotypic manifestations.

Collaborative research has touched upon HIV encephalopathy, blood-brain barrier, CNS fluid dynamics, and ocular development/ disorders. She continues to work with a variety of infectious diseases and immune disorders (e.g., AIDS, Kaposi sarcoma, tuberculosis, Whipple disease, inflammatory bowel disease, congenital/hereditary lymphatic system syndromes, opportunistic infections/neoplasms) and direct an internationally recognized Lymphedema-Angiodysplasia clinic.

Author of more than 400 peer-reviewed publications, recipient of numerous international honors and the UA College of Medicine's Gold-Headed Cane, Founders Day, and Virginia Furrow Education and Innovation Awards, Dr. Witte has received continuous funding from NIH (as well as other government, AMA, and non-profit agency grants) since she was a medical resident. 

Dr. Witte has also served as Program Director of UA’s only NIH General Clinical Research Center (GCRC) and is a member of the UA Arizona Comprehensive Cancer Center, Sarver Heart Center, and Viper Institute and have mentored hundreds of students supported by a continuous sequence of NIH multi-institute training grants she has acquired since 1982, with a special interest in teaching "medical ignorance" – "what we know we don't know, don't know we don't know, and think we know but don't".

Research Information

Research Program: 
Cancer Prevention and Control
Member Status: 
Research Member
Year of Membership Acceptance: 
Selected Publications: 
  1. Witte MH, AE Dumont, WR Cole, CL Witte, K Kintner: Lymph circulation in hepatic cirrhosis: Effect of portacaval shunt. Ann. Intern. Med. 70:303-310, 1969.
  2. Witte MH, AE Dumont, RH Clauss, B Rader, N Levine, ES Breed: Lymph circulation in congestive heart failure: Effect of external thoracic duct drainage. Circulation 39:723-733, 1969.
  3. Witte MH, CL Witte, AE Dumont: Progress in liver disease: Physiologic factors involved in the causation of cirrhotic ascites. Gastroenterology 61:742-750, 1971.
  4. Witte MH, CL Witte, AE Dumont: Estimated net transcapillary water and protein flux in the liver and intestine of patients with portal hypertension from hepatic cirrhosis. Gastroenterology 80:265-272, 1981. (Cited in Shepherds's text on Physiology of the Intestinal Circulation as a landmark article.)
  5. Gale, N, G Thurston, SF Hackett, R Renard, Q Wang, J McClain, C Martin, C Witte, M Witte, C Suri, P Campochiaro, S Wiegand, G Yancopoulos: Angiopoietin-2 is required for postnatal angiogenesis and lymphatic patterning, and only the latter is rescued by angiopoietin-1. Developmental Cell 3:411-423, 2002. (cover photo and accompanying editorial). PMID:12361603
  6. Dellinger, M, R Hunter, M Bernas, N Gale, G Yancopoulos, R Erickson, M Witte: Defective remodeling and maturation of the lymphatic vasculature in Angiopoietin-2 deficient mice. Developmental Biology 319:309-320, 2008. PMCID: PMC2536689
  7. Kanady, JD, MT Dellinger, SJ Munger, MH Witte, AM Simon: Connexin37 and Connexin43 deficiencies in mice disrupt lymphatic valve development and result in lymphatic disorders including lymphedema and chylothorax. Developmental Biology 354: 253-266, 2011. PMID:21515254
  8. Witte, M, MT Dellinger, CM Papendieck, F Boccardo: Overlapping biomarkers, pathways, processes and syndromes in lymphatic development, growth and neoplasia. Clin Exp Metastasis 29(7):707-727, 2012. COI 10.1077/s10585-012-9493-1 published online prior to print publication.
  9. McNeill GC, MH Witte, CL Witte, WH Williams, J Hall, DD Patton, GD Pond, J Woolfenden: Whole-body lymphangioscintigraphy: The preferred method for the initial assessment of the peripheral lymphatic system. Radiology 172:495-502, 1989.
  10. Witte CL, MH Witte, EC Unger, WH Williams, MJ Bernas, GC McNeill, A Stazzone: Advances in imaging of lymph flow disorders. RadioGraphics 20:1697-1719, 2000.
  11. Witte, M, P Crown, M Bernas, F Garcia: “Ignoramics” in medical and pre-medical education. J. Inv. Med. 56: 897-901, 2008.
Collaborative Research: 


5R01 MH065151-14     (Persidsky, PI)  12/01/01-06/30/17
BBB Tight Junctions During HIV-1 Dementia: Anti-Inflammatory Effects of GSK-3b Suppression
Major goals: Primary human brain microvascular endothelial cells (BMVEC) will be isolated and cultured from the temporal cortex of brain tissue obtained during surgical removal of epileptogenic foci in adult patients to examine GSK-3b suppression.
Role: Subcontract PI
2T35 HL07479-31A1    (Witte, PI)   05/01/84-11/30/19
Short-Term Training in Professional Schools
Major goals: Funds for 26-35 medical students to conduct research for S/T 2-3 month vacation periods per year.
Role: Program Director
5R25 HL108837-05      (Witte, PI)  06/01/11-05/31/16
Short-Term Training to Increase the Diversity Pipeline in Heart/Lung/Blood Research
Major goals: To introduce, train, and nurture inquiring medical and undergraduate students (including under-represented minorities) in health-related basic/clinical biomedical research and encourage intensive/ extensive research experiences to retain and strengthen the diverse student research pipeline.
Role: PI
5R25 NS076437-04      (Porreca/Witte, MPI)  08/01/11-06/30/16
High School Student NeuroResearch Program (HSNRP)
Major goals: This proposal will develop and implement a model program to recruit, train and mentor a growing cadre of diverse/disadvantaged (including under-represented minority) high school students in biomedical research broadly targeting neurosciences, neurological disorders and stroke.
Role: Co-PI
5R25 OD010487-04       (Witte/Garcia, MPI)  08/01/12-07/31/17
Translating Translation and Scientific Questioning in the Global K-12 Community
Major goals: To develop the Virtual Clinical Research Center/Questionarium (VCRC/Q) in web-based platform, for a real-life kindergarten to grade twelve experience linking scientists with students, teachers, CTSAs, SEPA projects, and the public.
Role: Co-PI
5R25 AI097448-03         (Witte/Garcia, MPI)  03/01/130-02/28/18
Infection and Immunity K-12 Science Program: Exploring Knowns/Unknowns via VCRC/Q
Major goals: To improve health/science literacy by developing inquiry-based comprehensive web-based/face-to-face curriculum focused globally on infection and immunity and designing and organizing teacher workshops and inservice training to assist in implementation and dissemination.
Role: Co-PI
R25 HD070811              (Ghishan/Garcia/Witte, MPI)   05/01/13-04/30/18
Summers in Children’s Research for Diverse High School Students
Major goals: This grant offers annually 8 diverse junior/senior high school students and 4 continuing undergraduates from Arizona an exciting educational 8-12 week summer experience in "hands on, brain on" basic and clinical research broadly targeting childhood and developmental disorders and maternal health and health disparities.
Role: Co-PI
5R21 HL122443-02        (Burt, PI)  04/04/14-03/31/16
Role of Connexin47 Mutations in Primary Lymphedema
Major goals: This grant explores the molecular role of connexin in lymphatic system development and specifically the mechanisms of lymphatic valve development.
Role: Co-Investigator
3R25 OD010487-02S1       (Witte/Garcia, MPI)  08/19/13-07/31/14
Administrative Supplement
Translating Translation and Scientific Questioning in the Global K-12 Community
Major goals: To develop the Virtual Clinical Research Center/Questionarium (VCRC/Q) in web-based platform, for a real-life kindergarten to grade twelve experience linking scientists with students, teachers, CTSAs, SEPA projects, and the public.
Role: Co-PI
PR100451                           (Alexander, PI)  07/01/11-05/13/14
Department of Defense Idea Grant
Lymphatic Vascular-based Therapy for IBD
Goal: Exploring mechanisms and therapeutic targets of lymphatic involvement in the course of inflammatory bowel disease.
Role: Subcontract PI
PR100654                           (Witte,PI)  09/30/11-10/29/13
Department of Defense
Progression of Inflammatory Bowel Disease to Cancer: Is the Patient “Better Off” without Lymphatic Vessels or Nodes (or Angiopoietin 2)?
Goal: To determine whether lymphatic insufficiency and Ang2 deficiency in a mouse model protects against progression of inflammatory colitis to colorectal cancer.
Role: PI
1C06 RR022120-01            (Dorsa, PI)   10/20/09-10/19/14
K-12 Virtual Clinical Research Center (VCRC) Medical Ignorance Exploratorium (MIE) Phase I & II
Goal: To develop a VCRC prototype and MIE directed at K 12 community. Includes support for disadvantaged high school student researchers to conduct summer research.
Role: Site PI

Professional Information

Positions and Honors: 
1987-present    Secretary-General, International Society of Lymphology; Editor, Lymphology, 2003-
1987-present    Director, NIH Minority/Disadvantaged High School Student /K-12 Science Teacher Program, Medical Ignorance Collaboratory 2000-06, Virtual CRC/Medical Ignorance Exploratorium; 2006-2012 NIH NCRR SEPA/ARRA; Translating Translation and Scientific Questioning/; 2012-2018, NIH OD SEPA, NIAID, NINDS, NICHD
1981-present    Director, Medical Student Research Program (MSRP), U AZ
1972-81    Director, NIH General Clinical Research Center (CRC) in Surgery, AZ Hlth Sci Center
1969-present    Asst Prof (1969-72); Assoc Prof (1972-77); Full Prof (1977-present), UA Dept. of Surgery, Attending physician UA Health Network; 2015 Banner Medical Center-Tucson/UA Main Campus
1967-68    Head, ER & Admitting Department, St. Louis City Hospital
1966-70    Instructor/Res. Asst Prof, Depts of Medicine/Cardiology/Surgery, Washington Univ. St. Louis
1960-61, 1962-65   Intern, UNC Memorial Hospital-Chapel Hill; Resident; Teaching Assistant/Tutor/Instructor, NYU Bellevue Hospital, Departments of Medicine

Academic Information

Medical School: 
New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY
Undergraduate School: 
BA, Zoology, Barnard College, New York, NY