Faculty Profile

Dr. Maja H. Oktay, M.D.,  Ph.D.

Maja H. Oktay, M.D., Ph.D.

Professor, Department of Pathology

Professor, Department of Anatomy & Structural Biology

Professional Interests

Maja Oktay, MD/PhD, is a physician scientist. She is board certified anatomical pathologist and cytopathologist with a Ph.D. and post-doctoral training in cancer cell biology and cell signaling pathways. Her major interests are in cancer cell biology, the biology of breast cancer progression and metastasis, as well as development of prognostic and predictive molecular biomarkers. Her work is based on the analysis of the cancer microenvironment using mouse models of cancer, intravital multiphoton imaging and digital pathology as well as minimally invasive procedures for diagnosis and prognosis of human malignancies, such as fine needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy.

Dr. Oktay is a translational (bench to bedside) researcher in Einstein’s Integrated Imaging Program where basic science findings are applied to clinical care through the integration and validation of high resolution optical imaging with currently used clinical imaging methods.

Most Recent Contribution to Science:

Maja Oktay studies breast cancer microenvironments responsible for metastasis. In particular, the function of breast cancer intravasation sites called TMEM (Tumor MicroEnvironment of Metastasis) and its interactions with pro-metastatic Mena-expressing tumor cells. Using fine needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy obtained breast cancer cells from patients she determined that cancer cell dissemination markers MenaINV, and MenaCalc correlate with TMEM score in estrogen-positive and triple-negative breast cancers from patients indicating mechanistic involvement of MenaINV, and MenaCalc in TMEM assembly and function in human breast cancer. In addition, using FNA obtained cancer cells from patients for functional in vitro trans-endothelial migration studies she demonstrated that TMEM sites and MenaINV expression in cancer cells are essential for cancer cell trans-endothelial migration in all clinical subtypes of breast cancer. She also participated in the prospective validation study which demonstrated that TMEM score is a predictive marker of metastasis in breast cancer patients, as well as in the study which demonstrated that TMEM sites are functional sites of transient blood vessel permeability and as such the only sites of breast cancer cell intravasation. In addition, she led a recent study which established that commonly used chemotherapy for breast cancer can induce TMEM and MenaINV mediated pro-metastatic changes in breast cancer in the neoadjuvant setting and demonstrated that these changes can be reversed by Tie2 inhibition.

  • Roussos ET, Goswami S, Balsamo M, Wang Y, Stobezki R, Adler E, Robinson BD, Jones JG, Gertler FB, Condeelis JS, Oktay MH. (2011) Mena invasive (MenaINV) and Mena11a isoforms play distinct roles in breast cancer cell cohesion and association with TMEM. Clin Exp Metastasis, 28: 515-27. PMID: 21484349 / PMCID: PMC3459587.
  • Oktay MH, Gertler FB, Liu Y-F, Rohan TE, Condeelis JS, Jones JG. (2012) Correlated Immunohistochemical and Cytological Assays for the Prediction of Hematogenous Dissemination of Breast Cancer. J Histochem Cytochem, 3: 168-73. PMID: 22215635/PMCID: PMC3351127.
  • Pignatelli J, Goswami S, Jones JG, Rohan TE, Pieri E, Chen X, Adler E, Maleki S, Bresnick A, Frank B. Gertler FB, Condeelis JS, Oktay MH. (2014) Invasive Breast Carcinoma Cells from Patients Exhibit MenaINV- and Macrophage-Dependent Transendothelial Migration. Sci. Signal, 25;7(353), ra112. PMID: 25429076/PMCID: PMC4266931
  • Rohan TE, Xue X, Lin HM, D’Alfonso TM, Ginter PS, Oktay MH, Robinson BD, Ginsberg M, Gertler FB, Glass AG, Sparano JA, Condeelis JS, Jones JG. Tumor microenvironment of metastasis and risk of distant metastasis of breast cancer. J Natl Cancer Inst, 2014.
  • Harney AS, Arwert EN, Entenberg D, Wang Y, Guo P, Qian BZ, Oktay MH, Pollard JW, Jones JG, Condeelis JS. (2015) Real-Time Imaging Reveals Local, Transient Vascular Permeability, and Tumor Cell Intravasation Stimulated by TIE2hi Macrophage-Derived VEGFA. Cancer Discovery 5(9):932-43. PMID: 26269515/ PMCID: 4560669.
  • Karagiannis GS, Pastoriza JM, Wang Y, Harney AS, Entenberg D, Pignatelli J, Sharma VP, Xue AE, Cheng E, D’Alfonso TM, Jones JG, Anampa-Mesias J, Rohan TE, Sparano JA, Condeelis JS, Oktay MH. (2017) Neoadjuvant Chemotherapy Induces Breast Cancer Metastasis through a TMEM-Mediated Mechanism. Sci. Trans. Med. 2017 Jul 5;9(397) PMID: 28679654 DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aan0026.

Selected Publications

  1. Pastoriza JM, Wang Y, Sosa MS, Aguirre-Ghiso J, Condeelis JS, Oktay MH, Entenberg D. “Multi-scale time-lapse intravital imaging of soft tissues to map single cell behavior.” Microscopy and Microanalysis. In press.
  2. Wang C, Christin JR, Oktay MH, Guo W. Lineage-biased stem cell maintain estrogen-receptor-positive and –negative mouse mammary luminal lineages. Cell Rep, (2017), 18: 2825-2835. PMID: 28329676. PMCID: PMC5408864.
  3. Pignatelli J, Bravo-Cordero JJ, Roh-Johnson M, Gandhi SJ, Wang Y, Chen X, Eddy RJ, Xue A, Singer RH, Hodgson L, Oktay MH, and Condeelis JS. Macrophage-dependent tumor cell transendothelial migration is mediated by Notch1/MenaINV -initiated invadopodium formation. Sci Rep, (2016), 6:37874. PMID: 27901093. PMCID: PMC5129016
  4. Zhang Z, Christin JR, Wang C, Ge K, Oktay MH, Guo W. Mammary-stem-cell-based somatic mouse models reveal breast cancer drivers causing cell fate dysregulation. Cell Rep, (2016),16: 3146-3156. PMID: 27653681. PMCID: PMC5069998
  5. Karagiannis GS, Goswami S, Jones JG, Oktay MH, Condeelis JS. Signatures of breast cancer metastasis at a glance. J. Cell Sci, (2016), 129, 1751-1758 doi:10.1242/jcs.183129. PMID: 27084578. PMCID: PMC4893654.
  6. Oktay MH, Adler E, Hakima L, Grunblatt E, Pieri E, Seymour A, Khader S, Cajigas A, Suhrland M, Goswami S. The application of molecular diagnostics to stained cytology smears. J. Mol. Diagnostics, (2016), May;18(3):407-15. doi: 10.1016/j.jmoldx.2016.01.007.
  7. Patsialou A, Want Y, Pignatelli J, Chen X, Enternberg D, Oktay MH, Condeelis JS. Autocrine ACF1R signaling mediates switching between invasion and proliferation downstream of TGFβ in claudin-low breast tumor cells. Oncogene, (2015), 34: 2721-31. PMID: 25088194. PMCID: PMC4317382.
  8. Oktay MH, Gertler FB, Liu Y-F, Rohan TE, Condeelis JS, Jones JG.: Correlated Immunohistochemical and Cytological Assays for the Prediction of Hematogenous Dissemination of Breast Cancer. J Histochem Cytochem, 3: 168-73, 2012.
  9. Oktay MH and Hui P: Molecular pathology as the driving force for personalized oncology. Expert review of molecular diagnostics, 12(8):811-3, 2012.
  10. Adler EH, Sunkara JL, Patchefsky AS, Koss LG, Oktay MH. Predictors of disease progression in DCIS of the breast and vascular patterns. Human Path. 4:550-6, 2012.
  11. Shapiro IM, Cheng AW, Flytzanis NC, Condeelis JS, Oktay MH, Burge CB, Gertler FB. An EMT-driven alternative splicing program is detectable in human breast cancer. PloS Genetics 7(8): e1002218, 2011.
  12. Madan R, Smolkin BM, Cocker R, Fayyad R, Oktay MH. Focal adhesion proteins as markers of malignant transformation and prognostic indicators in breast carcinoma. Human Path. 37:9-15, 2006.
  13. Oktay MH, Oktay K, Hamele-Bena D, Buyuk A, Koss LG. Focal adhesion kinase (FAK) as a marker of malignant phenotype in breast and cervical carcinoma. Human Pathol. 34:240-245, 2003.
  14. Oktay MH, Wary KK, Dans M, Birge RB, and Giancotti FG: Integrin-mediated activation of focal adhesion kinase is required for signaling to Jun NH2-terminal kinase and progression through the G1 phase of the cell cycle. J Cell Biol. 145:1461-1469, 1999.

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Research Information

In the News

New England Journal of Medicine highlights research by Drs. Maja Oktay, John Condeelis and George Karagiannis on the mechanism by which some breast cancer tumor cells resist chemotherapy and go on to metastasize.

NCI’s Cancer Currents blog interviews Dr. Maja Oktay about her recent research that found a previously unrecognized effect of chemotherapy.

More media coverage