Gary Kohanbash, PhD

Assistant Professor

Gary Kohanbash




Gary Kohanbash, PhD, joined the faculty of the Department of Neurological Surgery at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC in January of 2017.

Dr. Kohanbash graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 2007 with a bachelor of science honors degree in neuroscience, specializing in neurodegenerative diseases. He then earned his masters of science degree in infectious diseases and microbiology in 2009, and a doctorate in philosophy in 2012, both from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. While there, he identified novel pathways of immunosuppression in gliomas and participated in multiple phase I/II immunotherapy clinical trials.

Dr. Kohanbash subsequently completed a post-doctoral fellowship in the University of Pittsburgh Department of Neurological Surgery in 2014. He continued his training as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Department of Neurological Surgery. While at UCSF, Dr. Kohanbash was privileged to complete a prestigious T32 training program in translational brain tumor research

Specialized Areas of Interest

Immunotherapy for pediatric and adult central nervous system tumors.

Professional Organization Membership

Society for Neuro-Oncology
Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer
American Association for Cancer Research

Education & Training

BS, (hons), Neuroscience, University of Pittsburgh, 2007
MS, Infectious Diseases and Microbiology, University of Pittsburgh, 2009
PhD, Brain Tumor Immunology, University of Pittsburgh, 2012
Postdoctoral Fellow, Neurological Surgery, University of Pittsburgh, 2014
Postdoctoral Fellow, Neurological Surgery, University of California, San Francisco, 2016

Honors & Awards

  • Research Travel Award, Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer, 2014-15 
  • Honoree, The Annual Convocation of the University of Pittsburgh, 2010, 2014
  • Best Dissertation Award, Department of Infectious Diseases and Microbiology, University of Pittsburgh, 2013
  • Top Oral Presentation, Translational Research Cancer Center Consortium (TRCCC), 2013
  • International Research Travel Award, Japanese Society for Brain Tumor Pathology, 2012
  • Best Graduate Thesis Award, Department of Infectious Diseases and Microbiology, University of Pittsburgh, 2010
  • Top Poster Award, Translational Research Cancer Center Consortium (TRCCC), 2009

Selected Publications

Castro BA, Flanigan P, Jahangiri A, Hoffman D, Chen W, Kuang R, De Lay M, Yagnik G, Wagner JR, Mascharak S, Sidorov M, Shrivastav S, Kohanbash G, Okada H, Aghi MK. Macrophage migration inhibitory factor downregulation: a novel mechanism of resistance to anti-angiogenic therapy. Oncogene [ahead of print], 2016. 

Han SJ, Reis G, Kohanbash G, Shrivastav S, Magill ST, Molinaro AM, McDermott MW, Theodosopoulos PV, Aghi MK, Berger MS, Butowski NA, Barani I, Phillips JJ, Perry A, Okada H. Expression and prognostic impact of immune modulatory molecule PD-L1 in meningioma. J Neurooncol 130(3):543-552, 2016. 

Najac C, Chaumeil MM, Kohanbash G, Guglielmetti C, Gordon JW, Okada H, Ronen SM. Detection of inflammatory cell function using (13)C magnetic resonance spectroscopy of hyperpolarized [6-(13)C]-arginine. Science Reports 10;6:31397, 2016. 

Ahn B, Kohanbash G, Ohkuri T, Kosaka A, Chen X, Ikeura M, Wang TC, Okada H. Histamine deficiency promotes accumulation of immunosuppressive immature myeloid cells and growth of murine gliomas. Oncoimmunology 26;4(11):e1047581, 2015.

Kohanbash G, McKaveney K, Sakaki M, Ueda R, Mintz AH, Amankulor N, Fujita M, Ohlfest JR, Okada H. Granulocyte Macrophage-Colony Stimulation Factor Promotes the Immunosuppressive Activity of Glioma-Infiltrating Myeloid Cells through Interleukin-4 Receptor-α. Cancer Research 1;73(21):6413-23, 2013.

Kohanbash G, Ishikawa E, Fujita M, Ikeura M, McKaveney K, Zhu J, Sakaki M, Sarkar S, and Okada H. Differential activity of interferon-α8 promoter is regulated by Oct-1 and a SNP that dictates prognosis of glioma. OncoImmunology 1(4):487-492, 2012.

Kohanbash G, Okada H. Myeloid Derived Suppressor Cells in Gliomas and Glioma Development. Immunological Investigations 41(6-7):658-79, 2012.

Okada H, Kalinski P, Ueda R, Hoji A, Kohanbash G, Donegan TE, Mintz AH, Engh JA, Bartlett DL, Brown CK, Zeh H, Holtzman MP, Reinhart TA, Whiteside TL, Butterfield LH, Hamilton RL, Potter DM, Pollack IF, Salazar AM, Lieberman FS. Induction of CD8+ T-cell responses against novel glioma-associated antigen peptides and clinical activity by vaccinations with {alpha}-type 1 polarized dendritic cells and polyinosinic-polycytidylic acid stabilized by lysine and carboxymethylcellulose in patients with recurrent malignant glioma. Journal of Clinical Oncology 20;29(3):330-6, 2011.

Kohanbash G, Sasaki K, Hoji A, Ueda R, McDonald HA, Reinhart TA, Martinson J, Lotze MT, Marincola FM, Wang E, Fujita M, Okada H. MiR-17-92 Expression in Differentiated T Cells - Implications for Cancer Immunotherapy. Journal of Translational Medicine 18;8(1):17, 2010.

Ueda R, Kohanbash G, Sasaki K, Fujita M, Zhu X, Kastenhuber ER, McDonald HA, Potter DM, Hamilton RL, Lotze MT, Khan SA, Sobol RW, and Okada H. Dicer-regulated microRNAs 222 and 339 promote resistance of cancer cells to cytotoxic T-lymphocytes by down-regulation of ICAM-1. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science 106(26):10746-51, 2009.

A complete list of Dr. Kohanbash's publications can be reviewed through the National Library of Medicine's publication database.

Research Activities

The brain is an immune privileged site due to its unique immunological characteristics. Dr. Kohanbash’s research focus is on understanding the immune environment in adult and pediatric brain tumors and identifying targets to improve the ability of the host immune system to fight these tumors. Dr. Kohanbash has active research in the following three areas:

  1. Understanding the cross-talk between tumor cells and host immune cells,
  2. Improving vaccine therapy for adult and pediatric brain tumor patients,
  3. Pre-clinical testing of immune-modulating agents. 

Media Appearances