A Rye resident is part of a team of doctors at Einstein-Montefiore that has been awarded grants from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) as part of their “Provocative Questions” program. The innovative effort is designed to ignite investigations into 24 promising but neglected or unexplored areas of research.
Rye resident Maja Oktay, M.D., Ph.D. will work on a grant team focused on developing new approaches to investigating the biology of metastasis—the usually fatal spread of the primary cancer to other parts of the body. Using human breast cancer cells obtained from tumors of patients treated at Montefiore Einstein Center for Cancer Care, the scientists will focus on intravasation—the crucial step in which tumor cells invade blood vessels and are then carried to distant sites where they become seeded in new tissues.
The researchers have hypothesized that different breast tumors contain varying proportions of cells capable of invading blood vessels and that these “intravasation-competent” cancer cells have distinct gene expression profiles. The proportion of such tumor cells and the genes they express would determine whether a breast tumor metastasizes or not.
The goal of the research is to develop a human intravasation “signature” that will predict whether a breast cancer tumor is destined to metastasize. Identifying this signature will help to reveal targets for anti-metastatic therapies. Such therapies are urgently needed to decrease the morbidity and mortality associated with breast cancer.
Dr. Oktay is associate professor of pathology (clinical) at Einstein and attending physician, pathology at Montefiore. The metastasis grant (CA170507) totals $1.4 million over 4 years.