Ian F. Pollack, MD

A. Leland Albright Distinguished Professor
Vice Chair, Academic Affairs
Chief, Pediatric Neurosurgery
Co-Director, Neurosurgical Oncology

Ian Pollack




Ian Pollack, MD, is co-director of the Brain Tumor Program at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, chief of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, and A. Leland Albright Professor of Neurosurgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

Prior to joining the faculty of the Department of Neurological Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh in 1992, he was awarded the 1991 Van Wagenen Traveling Fellowship, which afforded him a year of subspecialty training in the Department of Neurosurgery at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, the Neuro-Oncology Laboratory of the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, and the Laboratory of Tumor Biology of the University of Uppsala in Sweden.

Dr. Pollack graduated magna cum laude from Emory University in 1980, where he earned a BS degree in chemistry. He received his medical degree from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in 1984, then completed a surgical internship and neurosurgical residency at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. He also was a research fellow in neuropathology and neurobiology during some of that time.

Pollack has published more than 320 papers in refereed journals, numerous book chapters and invited papers, and has edited two books on childhood brain tumors. He is co-editor of the book Principles and Practice of Pediatric Neurosurgery—currently in its third edition—and an accompanying atlas Operative Techniques In Pediatric Neurosurgery.

He is currently a principal investigator on numerous NIH grants focusing on novel therapies for brain tumors and evaluating molecular markers of tumor prognosis. Dr. Pollack was named vice chairman of academic affairs for the department in July of 2008.

He has co-chaired the National Cancer Institute Brain Malignancy Steering Committee since 2010.

Specialized Areas of Interest

Pediatric neurosurgery; pediatric neuro-oncology; craniofacial surgery; congenital spinal abnormalities; brain tumor clinical trials.

Board Certifications

American Board of Neurological Surgery
American Board of Pediatric Neurosurgery

Hospital Privileges

Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC
Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC
UPMC Presbyterian

Professional Organization Membership

Academy of Neurological Surgeons
Alpha Omega Alpha
American Association for the Advancement of Science
American Association for Cancer Research
American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS)
American College of Surgeons
American Society of Pediatric Neurosurgeons
American Society for Clinical Investigation
Association of American Physicians 
Children’s Oncology Group
Congress of Neurological Surgeons (CNS)
Johns Hopkins Medical and Surgical Society
Joint Section on Tumors (AANS/CNS)
Pennsylvania Neurosurgical Society
Phi Beta Kappa
Society of Neurological Surgeons
Society for Neuro-Oncology
Society of Surgical Oncology

Education & Training

BS, Chemistry, Emory University, Magna cum Laude, 1980
MD, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, 1984
Residency, University of Pittsburgh, 1991
Fellowship, University of Pittsburgh, 1990
Fellowship, Hospital for Sick Children, 1991
Fellowship, University of Lausanne, 1991
Fellowship, University of Uppsala, 1992

Honors & Awards

Castle Connolly’s America’s Top Doctors, 2002-17
Who’s Who in America (Marquis), 2005-16
Who’s Who in the World (Marquis), 2008-16
Castle Connolly’s America’s Top Cancer Doctors, 2005-17
Van Wagenen Lecturer, 2014 AANS Meeting
Winn Prize, Society of Neurological Surgeons, 2015
Columbia Softball Charity Award, 2016 AANS Meeting
Children’s Brain Tumor Foundation, Award for Scientific Excellence, 2016

Selected Publications

Jane EP, Premkumar DR, Cavaleri JM, Sutera PA, Rajasekar T, Pollack I. Dinaciclib, a CDK inhibitor promotes proteasomal degradation of Mcl-1 and enhances ABT-737 mediated cell death in malignant human glioma cell lines. J Pharmacol Exp Ther 356(2):354-65, 2015.

Jakacki RI, Burger P, Kocak M, Boyett J, Goldwein J, Mehta M, Packer RJ, Tarbell N, Pollack IF. Outcome and prognostic factors for children with supratentorial primitive neuroectodermal tumors (SPNET) treated with carboplatin during craniospinal radiotherapy: A report from the Children’s Oncology Group. Pediatr Blood Cancer 62:776-783, 2015.

Pollack IF, Jakacki RI, Butterfield LH, Hamilton RL, Panigrahy A, Potter DM, Connelly AK, Dibridge SA, Whiteside TL, Okada H. Antigen-specific immune responses and clinical outcome after vaccination with glioma-associated antigen peptides and Polyinosinic-polycytidylic acid stabilized by lysine and carboxymethylcellulose in children with newly diagnosed malignant brainstem and nonbrainstem gliomas. J Clin Oncol 32:2050-2058, 2014. 

Ater JL, Zhou T, Holmes E, Mazewski CM, Booth TN, Freyer DR, Lazarus KH, Packer RJ, Prados M, Sposto R,Vezina G, Wisoff JH, Pollack IF. Randomized study of two chemotherapy regimens for treatment of low grade glioma in young children: A Children’s Oncology Group Study. J Clin Oncol 30:2641-2647, 2012.

Pollack IF, Hamilton RL, Sobol RW, Nikiforova MN, Lyons-Weiler MA, LaFramboise WA, Burger PC, Brat DJ, Rosenblum MK, Holmes EJ, Zhou T, Jakacki RI. IDH1 mutations are common in malignant gliomas arising in adolescents: A report from the Children’s Oncology Group. Child’s Nerv Syst 27:87-94, 2011.

Jane EP, Premkumar D, Pollack IF. Bortezomib sensitizes malignant human glioma cells to TRAIL mediated by inhibition of the NF-ĸB signaling pathway. Molecular Cancer Ther 10:198-208, 2011.

Pollack IF, Stewart CF, Kocak M, Young-Poussaint T, Bronsicer A, Banerjee A, Douglas J, Kun LE, Boyett JM, Geyer JR. A phase II study of gefitinib and irradiation in children with newly diagnosed brain stem gliomas: A report from the Pediatric Brain Tumor Consortium. Neuro-Oncology 13:290-297, 2011.

Thaker NG, McDonald PR, Zhang F, Shun TY, Lewen MD, Pollack IF, Lazo JS. Identification of survival genes in human glioblastoma cells using siRNA screening. Molec Pharm 76:1246-1255, 2009.

Pollack IF, Hamilton RL, Sobol RW, Burnham J, Yates AJ, Holmes EJ, Zhou T, Finlay JL. O6-methylguanine-DNA methyltransferase expression strongly correlates with outcome in childhood malignant gliomas: Results from the CCG-945 cohort. J Clin Oncol 24:3431-37, 2006.

Pollack IF, Finkelstein SD, Woods J, Burnham J, Holmes EJ, Hamilton RL, Yates AJ, Boyett JM, Finlay JL, Sposto R. Expression of p53 and prognosis in malignant gliomas in children. N Engl J Med 346:420-427, 2002.

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

Research Activities

Dr. Pollack's group has continued an ongoing focus on molecular characterization of childhood brain tumors as a basis for identifying prognostic subsets and groups amenable to molecularly targeted therapy. Relevant publications regarding molecularly targeted therapy and genomic classification from last year are summarized in the 2016 department annual report. We have also continued our NIH funded activities that focus on immunotherapy for brain tumors. The following is excerpted from our recent Neuro-Oncology publication [Pollack IF, Jakacki RI, Butterfield LH, Hamilton RL, Panigrahy A, Normolle DP, Connelly AK, Dibridge S, Mason G, Whiteside TL, Okada H. Immune responses and outcome after vaccination with glioma-associated antigen peptides and poly-ICLC in a pilot study for pediatric recurrent low-grade gliomasNeuro-Oncology 18:1157-1168, 2016.]

Low-grade gliomas (LGGs) are the most common brain tumors of childhood. Although surgical resection is curative for well-circumscribed superficial lesions, tumors that are infiltrative or arise from deep structures are therapeutically challenging, and new treatment approaches are needed. Having identified a panel of glioma-associated antigens (GAAs) overexpressed in these tumors, we initiated a pilot trial of vaccinations with peptides for GAA epitopes in human leukocyte antigen–A2+ children with recurrent LGG that had progressed after at least two prior regimens.

Peptide epitopes for 3 GAAs (EphA2, IL-13Ra2, and survivin) were emulsified in Montanide-ISA-51 and administered subcutaneously adjacent to intramuscular injections of polyinosinic-polycytidylic acid stabilized by lysine and carboxymethylcellulose every three weeks for eight courses, followed by booster vaccines every six weeks. Primary endpoints were safety and T-lymphocyte responses against GAA epitopes. Treatment response was evaluated clinically and by MRI.

Fourteen children were enrolled. Other than grade 3 urticaria in one child, no regimen-limiting toxicity was encountered. Vaccination induced immunoreactivity to at least one vaccine-targeted GAA was observed in all 12 evaluable patients: to IL-13Ra2 in three, EphA2 in 11, and survivin in three. One child with a metastatic LGG had asymptomatic pseudoprogression noted six weeks after starting vaccination, followed by dramatic disease regression with >75% shrinkage of primary tumor and regression of metastatic disease, persisting >57 months. Three other children had sustained partial responses, lasting >10, >31, and >45 months, and one had a transient response.

GAA peptide vaccination in children with recurrent LGGs is generally well tolerated, with preliminary evidence of immunological and clinical activity.

Media Appearances

Fall 2014
UPMC Cancer Center 2014 Annual Report

Glioma: Pilot Trial Shows Peptide Vaccine Active in Pediatric Patients
May 25, 2012
Oncology Times

First-of-its-kind Study of Peptide Vaccine by Pittsburgh Researchers Shows Evidence of Immunological Response in Children with Gliomas
April 4, 2012

Study Suggests Vaccine May Help Kids With Brain Cancer
April 3, 2012
U.S. News and World Report Health Day

Study Suggests Vaccine May Help Kids With Brain Cancer
April 3, 2012

Study Suggests Vaccine May Help Kids With Brain Cancer
April 3, 2012
MSN Health

Peptide vaccine shows evidence of immunological, clinical activity in children with gliomas
April 3, 2012

Brain Tumor Vaccine for Children
April 2, 2012
WTAJ-TV (Johnstown)

Teen Has New Lease On Life After Brain Tumor Removal 
July 22, 2009
WTAE TV-4 (Pittsburgh) Evening News

Study finds clue to deadly childhood brain cancers
February 7, 2002
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

UPMC On Topic Videos

Brain Care Institute: Expertise
Dr. Pollack talks about managing many of the unusual types of brain tumors.

Brain Care Institute: A Top-Notch Institution
Dr. Pollack talks about the advantages afforded by working at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.

Brain Care Institute: A Rewarding Experience
Dr. Pollack talks about the experiences that give him a great sense of satisfaction in his work.