Maria Zajac-Kaye, Ph.D.

Maria Zajac-Kaye, Ph.D

Interim Chair

Office: CGRC 360
Phone: (352) 273-9153
Fax: (352) 273-8299

Education and Training

Ph.D. – Department of Biochemical and Biophysical Sciences, School of Hygiene and Public Health, The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD (1982)
M.S. – Organic Chemistry, The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD (1975)
B.S. (Honors) – Chemistry, The City University of New York, New York, NY (1973)

Postdoctoral Training

Post Doctoral Fellow, Department of Experimental Cell Biology, Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY (1983-1985)

Biotechnology Fellow, Medicine Branch, National Cancer Institute, NIH, Bethesda, MD (1985-1988)

Research Fellow, Medicine Branch, National Cancer Institute, NIH, Bethesda, MD (1988-1989)

Research Interests

My long-term research interests focus on understanding mechanisms of oncogenic transformation. We have recently studied the role of thymidylate synthase (TS) in tumorigenesis since TS plays a central role in DNA synthesis/repair and high levels of TS have correlated with a poor prognostic outcome in patients with lung, pancreas, colon, and rectal carcinomas. We demonstrated that ectopic expression of catalytically active human TS (hTS) was sufficient to induce a transformed phenotype in mammalian cells both in culture and in transgenic models confirming that it serves as a bona fide cancer therapeutic target. Our current work is focused on defining patterns of cooperation between TS and other cancer genes using a series of defined mouse models. Our goal is to use these transgenic animals to study the in vivo consequences of elevated TS on DNA stability, to test how this relates to tumorigenesis, and to improve the use of TS as a biomarker and therapeutic target.


Development of an animal model to study the effect of thymidylate synthase expression on the biology of exocrine pancreatic cancer

Cooperation of CDKN2A/p16 gene inactivation and thymidylate synthase overexpression in tumor development

Multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1) gene inactivation and thymidylate synthase overexpression in the development of islet cell carcinoma

Targeted drugs and siRNA delivery for pancreatic and lung cancer in an in vitro and in vivo animal models


Vinod Vijayakurup, Kyungah Maeng, Hye Seung Lee, Benjamin S. Meyer, Sandra Burkett, Akbar Nawab, Michael W. Dougherty, Christian Jobin, Iqbal Mahmud, Timothy J. Garrett, Michael Feely, Kyoung Bun Lee, Frederic J. Kaye, Maria V. Guijarro, and Maria Zajac-Kaye. 2022. Thymidylate synthase accelerates Men1-mediated pancreatic tumor progression and reduces survival. JCI Insight. 2022 Sep 1;e147417. doi: 10.1172/jci.insight.147417 | PubMed

Haritha NH, Nawab A, Vijayakurup V, Anto NP, Liju VB, Alex VV, Amrutha AN, Aiswarya SU, Swetha M, Vinod BS, Sundaram S, Guijarro MV, Herlevich T, Krishna A, Nestory NK, Bava SV, Sadasivan C, Zajac-Kaye M, Anto RJ. 2021. Targeting Thymidylate Synthase Enhances the Chemosensitivity of Triple-Negative Breast Cancer Towards 5-FU-Based Combinatorial Therapy. Front Oncol. 2021 Jul 15;11:656804. doi: 10.3389/fonc.2021.656804. eCollection 2021.PMID: 34336653 | PubMed

Jiang Y, Gao R, Cao C, Forbes L, Li J, Freeberg S, Fredenburg KM, Justice JM, Silver NL, Wu L, Varma S, West R, Licht JD, Zajac-Kaye M, Kentsis A, Kaye FJ. 2019. MYB-activated models for testing therapeutic agents in adenoid cystic carcinoma. Oral Oncol. 2019 Nov;98:147-155. doi: 10.1016/j.oraloncology.2019.09.005. Epub 2019 Oct 10.PMID: 31606723 | PubMed

Kellish P, Shabashvili D, Rahman MM, Nawab A, Guijarro MV, Zhang M, Cao C, Moussatche N, Boyle T, Antonia S, Reinhard M, Hartzell C, Jantz M, Mehta HJ, McFadden G, Kaye FJ, Zajac-Kaye M. 2019. Oncolytic virotherapy for small-cell lung cancer induces immune infiltration and prolongs survival. J Clin Invest. 2019 Apr 29;129(6):2279-2292. doi: 10.1172/JCI121323. eCollection 2019 Apr 29.PMID: 31033480 | PubMed

Thomas RM, Zajac-Kaye M. 2018. Microbial marauders: pancreatic microbiota and its impact on carcinogenesis. Ann Transl Med. 2018 Nov;6(Suppl 1):S63. doi: 10.21037/atm.2018.10.34.PMID: 30613638 | PubMed

Thomas RM, Gharaibeh RZ, Gauthier J, Beveridge M, Pope JL, Guijarro MV, Yu Q, He Z, Ohland C, Newsome R, Trevino J, Hughes SJ, Reinhard M, Winglee K, Fodor AA, Zajac-Kaye M, Jobin C. 2018. Intestinal microbiota enhances pancreatic carcinogenesis in preclinical models. Carcinogenesis. 2018 Jul 30;39(8):1068-1078. doi: 10.1093/carcin/bgy073.PMID: 29846515 | PubMed

Chen M, Maeng K, Nawab A, Francois RA, Bray JK, Reinhard MK, Boye SL, Hauswirth WW, Kaye FJ, Aslanidi G, Srivastava A, Zajac-Kaye M. 2017. Efficient Gene Delivery and Expression in Pancreas and Pancreatic Tumors by Capsid-Optimized AAV8 Vectors. 2017 Feb;28(1):49-59. doi: 10.1089/hgtb.2016.089 | PubMed

Rony A. Francois, Kyungah Maeng, Akbar Nawab, Frederic J. Kaye, Steven N. Hochwald, and Maria Zajac-Kaye. 2015. Targeting Focal Adhesion Kinase and Resistance to mTOR Inhibition in Pancreatic Neuroendocrine Tumors. J Nat Cancer Inst. Published online May 2015. 107(8): 123-133. PMID: 25971297. | PubMed

Cao C, Gao R, Zhang M, Amelio AL, Fallahi, M, Chen, Z, Gu Y, Hu C, Welsh EA, Engel BE, Haura EB, Cress WD, Wu L, Zajac-Kaye M, and Kaye FJ. 2015. Role of LKB1-CRTC1 on glycosylated COX-2 and response to COX-2 inhibition in lung cancer. J Natl Cancer Inst. Published on line Dec 2014 107(1): 358-368. | PubMed

Jianliang Zhang, Di-Hua He, Maria Zajac-Kaye, and Steven N. Hochwald. 2014. A small molecule FAK kinase inhibitor, GSK 2256098, inhibits growth and survival of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma cells. Cell Cycle. 13(19): 3143-9. | PubMed

Antonio L. Amelio, Mohammad Fallahi, Frans X Schaub, Min Zhang, Mariam B. Lawani, Adam S. Alperstain, Mark R. Southern, Brandon M Young, Lizi Wu, Maria Zajac-Kaye, Frederic J Kaye, John L Cleveland, and Michael D. Cronkright. 2014. CRTC1/MAML2 Gain-of-Function Interactions with MYC Create a Gene Signature Predictive of Cancer with CREB-MYC Involvement. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 111(32): E3260-8. | PubMed

Hye Seung Lee, Min Chen, Ji Hun Kim, Woo Ho Kim, Soyeon Ahn, Kyungah Maeng, Carmen J. Allegra, Frederic J. Kaye, Steven N. Hochwald, and Maria Zajac-Kaye. 2014. Analysis of 320 Gastroenteropancreatic Neuroendocrine Tumors Identifies TS Expression as Independent Biomarker for Survival. Int J Cancer. 135(1): 128-37. | PubMed

Jianliang Zhang, Rony Francois, Renuka Iyer, Mukund Seshadri, Maria Zajac-Kaye and Steven Hochwald.- Current understanding of the molecular biology of pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors. J Natl Cancer Institute v105, 1005-1017, 2013 | PubMed

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