Okay Saydam
MSc, PhD

Assistant Professor, Division of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology
Faculty, Department of Pediatrics


Dr. Okay Saydam is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pediatrics, Division of Hematology and Oncology. He received his undergraduate degree in medical-biological science and his masters of science at the School of Medicine of Dokuz Eylul University, Izmir, Turkey. He earned his PhD in molecular biology from the Institute of Molecular Biology of the University of Zürich in Switzerland. Dr. Saydam went on to complete postdoctoral studies in gene therapy at the University of Zürich and a fellowship under Xandra Breakefield, PhD, at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. He has had academic appointments at Harvard Medical School and the Medical University of Vienna in Austria.

Dr. Saydam's research has received funding from the United States, Austria, Switzerland, and the Turkish National Foundation. His most current project, on extracellular vesicles, is funded by the University of Minnesota, BRAINS program. The main goal of his research is to explore the molecular pathways/factors that control development and progression of brain tumors, with an ultimate objective of translating molecular mechanistic knowledge into clinical applications by developing novel therapeutic drugs and early biomarker screening tools for brain tumors.

Dr. Saydam serves as an ad-hoc reviewer of numerous scientific journals and has served on several grant review panels. He is the author of several dozen papers and book chapters and holds three patents related to his work on brain tumors.

Research Summary

The main goal of my research is to explore the molecular pathways/factors that control tumor development and progression in the central nervous system. My ultimate objective is to translate our molecular mechanistic knowledge into clinical applications by developing novel therapeutic drugs and early biomarker screening tools for brain tumors. My strategy involves comprehensive analyses of patient-derived specimens such as tumor tissue/cells and sera through use of cutting-edge technologies such as next-generation sequencing, RNA sequencing, miRNA and drug screening, gene arrays, and proteomics in order to identify tumor-specific molecular targets that can be used for novel drug development or employed as early tumor biomarker.

My research topics are as follows:

Clinical Biomarker Development Studies for brain tumors:
Glioblastomas: we are working on several clinical biomarker development studies for glioblastomas using serum, tissues and extracellular vesicles. We are employing comprehensive analyses of tumor tissues/cells through the high-throughput screening methodologies such as proteomics, gene arrays, next generation sequencing (NGS), tumor-associated autoantibody (TAA) array, and Proseek Multiplex Cancer Panel, directing for discovery of novel drug targets and biomarkers.

Meningiomas: we are performing similar screening studies (see above) for meningioma patients as well and develop a panel consisting of 5 circulating protein biomarkers which can be useful in the clinical practice to monitor transition of meningiomas from benign to malignant forms.

Medulloblastomas: we recently discovered an oncogene in the extracellular vesicles of medulloblastoma patients that can be used as a worldwide screening tool in newborns for early detection of medulloblastomas. Additionally, we also developed a nano-string based panel biomarkers that can be useful to genetically diagnose sub-types of medulloblastomas in the patient serums.

Genetically engineering extracellular vesicles (EVs) as a novel small-molecule delivery tool for brain tumors: we have recently developed genetically engineered EVs by expressing high levels of the mRNA and protein (Mizrak et al., 2013; Erkan et al.: 2016 and 2017). We are now using these molecules as a miRNA/RNA/protein and small molecule delivery tool to treat brain tumors

High-throughput drug discoveries for brain tumors: another topic of my research is to perform High-throughput Drug Discovery Studies (HTDDS) for brain tumors using the several libraries consisting of FDA approved drugs and bioactive compounds.


PhD in Molecular Biology, Institute of Molecular Biology, University of Zürich, Switzerland
MSc in Biochemistry, School of Medicine, Dokuz Eylul University, Izmir, Turkey

Fellowships, Residencies, and Visiting Engagements

Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard University
Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Postdoctoral Studies in Gene Therapy,
University of Zürich
Zurich, Switzerland

Honors and Recognition

New Investigator of the Month, American Society of Gene & Cell Therapy



Pediatric Hematology-Oncology
Mayo Mail Code 484
420 Delaware Street SE
Minneapolis, MN 55455

Administrative Contact

Lynn Levercom Wodziak
Administrative Phone: 612-626-2778
Administrative Email: lleverco@umn.edu
Administrative Fax Number: 612-626-2815