Robert M. Friedlander, MD, MA

Chair, Walter E. Dandy Professor
Head of Cerebrovascular Neurosurgery
Director, Complex Brain Surgery Program
Co-Director, UPMC Neurological Institute

Robert Friedlander




On June 1, 2010, Robert Friedlander, MD, MA, became the fourth chair in the department’s history. Prior to joining the department, Dr. Friedlander was professor of neurosurgery at Harvard Medical School and vice-chairman of neurosurgery and associate director of cerebrovascular surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

As a sign of his prominence as a clinician and scientist, Dr. Friedlander is one of a very select group of authors to have been invited by the New England Journal of Medicine to write both a basic science review (mechanisms of neuronal cell death), as well as a clinical review (management of AVMs). Clinically, Dr. Friedlander focuses on the operative management of complex cerebrovascular disorders and brain tumors.

Dr. Friedlander’s major research interests lie in the study of the mechanistic pathways of the caspase apoptosis gene family. As co-director of Brigham and Women’s Neuroscience Research Center, his work includes the evaluation of treatment strategies for neurodegenerative diseases (Huntington’s and ALS), stroke, brain trauma, and spinal cord injury through the modulation of the caspase-family apoptotic pathways.

Dr. Friedlander’s research has received significant media attention including major work published in Nature, Science, and Nature Medicine.

His work has also been recognized through many academic awards, including the Neurosurgery Resident Award from the Congress of Neurological Surgeons, the Bayer Cerebrovascular Award from the Joint Section of Cerebrovascular Surgery, the International Charcot Prize for Motor Neuron Diseases, and the Award from the Academy of Neurological Surgeons. In 2006, he was elected as a member of the prestigious American Society for Clinical Investigation. Dr. Friedlander is only one of three neurosurgeons elected as a member of the American Association of Physicians.

Clinically, Dr. Friedlander has developed interests in the management of complex brain lesions (cavernous malformations and brain tumors) located within or adjacent to extreme eloquent areas. Using high definition fiber tractography (HDFT) has been able to tailor surgical approaches aimed at minimizing risks of development of new neurological deficits. He continues to have an interest in the management of complex cerebrovascular lesions (aneurysms, AVMs, carotid stenosis) as well as Chiari malformations

Specialized Areas of Interest

Aneurysms, vascular malformations, brain tumors, carotid disease, cerebrovascular disease, Chiari malformation, spinal cord tumors. Research focuses on mechanisms of apoptosis, Huntington’s disease, ALS, and stroke.

Board Certifications

American Board of Neurological Surgeons

Hospital Privileges

UPMC Altoona
UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh
UPMC Hamot
UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital
UPMC Mercy
UPMC Passavant
UPMC Presbyterian
UPMC Shadyside

Professional Organization Membership

American Academy of Neurological Surgeons
American Association for the Advancement of Science
American Association of Neurological Surgeons
American Association of Physicians
American Society for Clinical Investigation
Brain Aneurysm Foundation, Medical Advisory Board
Congress of Neurological Surgeons
Joint Section of Cerebrovascular Surgery
National Academy of Medicine
Sociedad Venezolana de Neurocirugia 
Society for Neurological Surgeons
Society for Neuroscience

Education & Training

BA, Brandeis University, 1987
MA, Biochemistry, Brandeis University, 1987
MD, Harvard Medical School, 1991

Honors & Awards

  • National Academy of Medicine election, 2018
  • Pittsburgh’s Best Doctors, Pittsburgh Magazine, 2012-18
  • Honored Guest, HRH Crown Prince Alexander and HRH Crown Princess Katherine, Belgrade, Serbia, 2014
  • Honored Guest, US Ambassador, Belgrade, Serbia, 2013
  • America’s Top Surgeons, 2013
  • Castle Connolly Top Doctor in the Field of Neurological Surgery, 2013
  • H. Richard Winn Prize for Neurosurgical Research, 2012

Selected Publications

Suofu Y, Li W, Jean-Alphonse FG, Jia J, Khattar NK, Li J, Baranov SV, Leronni D, Mihalik AC, He Y, Cecon E, Wehbi VL, Kim J, Heath BE, Baranova OV, Wang X, Gable MJ, Kretz ES, Di Benedetto G, Lezon TR, Ferrando LM, Larkin TM, Sullivan M, Yablonska S, Wang J, Minnigh MB, Guillaumet G, Suzenet F, Richardson RM, Poloyac SM, Stolz DB, Jockers R, Witt-Enderby PA, Carlisle DL, Vilardaga JP, Friedlander RM. Dual role of mitochondria in producing melatonin and driving GPCR signaling to block cytochrome c releaseProc Natl Acad Sci USA 114(38):E7997-E8006, 2017.

Yano H, Baranov SV, Baranova OV, Kim J, Pan Y, Yablonska S, Carlisle DL, Ferrante RJ, Kim AH, Friedlander RM. Inhibition of mitochondrial protein import by mutant huntingtinNat Neurosci 17(6):822-31, 2014.

Friedlander RM. Clinical practice. Arteriovenous malformations of the brain. Review. N Engl J Med 356(26):2704-12. Review, 2007.

Teng YD, Choi H, Onario RC, Zhu S, Desilets FC, Lan S, Woodard EJ, Snyder EY, Eichler ME, Friedlander RM. Minocycline inhibits contusion-triggered mitochondrial cytochrome c release and mitigates functional deficits after spinal cord injuryProc Natl Acad Sci USA 101(9):3071-6, 2004.

Wang X, Zhu S, Drozda M, Zhang W, Stavrovskaya IG, Cattaneo E, Ferrante RJ, Kristal BS, Friedlander RM. Minocycline inhibits caspase-independent and -dependent mitochondrial cell death pathways in models of Huntington's diseaseProc Natl Acad Sci USA 100(18):10483-7, 2003.

Friedlander RM, Gonzalez RG, Afridi NA, Pfannl R. Case records of the Massachusetts General Hospital. Weekly clinicopathological exercises. Case 16-2003. A 58-year-old woman with left-sided weakness and a right frontal brain massN Engl J Med 348(21):2125-32, 2003.

Friedlander RM. Role of Programmed Cell Death in Neurologic Disease. N Engl J Med 348:1365-1375, 2003.

Zhu S, Stavrovskaya IG, Drozda M, Kim BY, Ona V, Li M, Sarang S, Liu AS, Hartley DM, Wu DC, Gullans S, Ferrante RJ, Przedborski S, Kristal BS, Friedlander RM. Minocycline inhibits cytochrome c release and delays progression of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in miceNature 417(6884):74-8, 2002

Chen M, Ona VO, Li M, Ferrante RJ, Fink KB, Zhu S, Bian J, Guo L, Farrell LA, Hersch SM, Hobbs W, Vonsattel JP, Cha JH, Friedlander RM. Minocycline inhibits caspase-1 and caspase-3 expression and delays mortality in a transgenic mouse model of Huntington diseaseNat Med 6(7):797-801, 2000.

Li M, Ona VO, Guégan C, Chen M, Jackson-Lewis V, Andrews LJ, Olszewski AJ, Stieg PE, Lee JP, Przedborski S, Friedlander RM. Functional role of caspase-1 and caspase-3 in an ALS transgenic mouse modelScience 288(5464):335-9, 2000.

Ona VO, Li M, Vonsattel JP, Andrews LJ, Khan SQ, Chung WM, Frey AS, Menon AS, Li XJ, Stieg PE, Yuan J, Penney JB, Young AB, Cha JH, Friedlander RM. Inhibition of caspase-1 slows disease progression in a mouse model of Huntington's diseaseNature 399(6733):263-7, 1999.

Friedlander RM, Brown RH, Gagliardini V, Wang J, Yuan J. Inhibition of ICE slows ALS in miceNature 388(6637):31, 1997.

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

Media Appearances

Brain Neurons Disconnect from Each Other in Process Called Neuritosis, Mouse Study of Huntington’s Reveals
January 24, 2019
Huntington's Disease News

Research Describes How Neurons Can Be Separated From Huntington’s Disease
January 4, 2019
Industry News Today

Mayor Beats Dangerous Brain Tumor
April 25, 2018
Pittsburgh Magazine

Mark Boughton's Physicians Say He's Fit To Serve As Governor
March 28, 2018
Hartford Courant

Boughton's doctors say seizure no reason not to run for Governor
March 28, 2018
WTNH TV-8 (New Haven, Conn.)

Boughton's Doctors Clear Mayor for Run for Governor
March 28, 2018
NBC Connecticut

Boughton Offers Glimpse Into His Medical History, Brain Surgery
March 28, 2018
Connecticut News Junkie

Doctors say seizure, surgery no bar to Boughton’s campaign
March 28, 2018
The Connecticut Mirror

Mayor Mark Boughton Returns Home To Danbury After Brain Surgery
August 17, 2017
Danbury Daily Voice

Boughton recalls harrowing night before brain surgery
August 16, 2017
Danbury NewsTimes

Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton out of hospital after brain surgery
August 10, 2017
Danbury NewsTimes

Boughton recovering after brain surgery
August 9, 2017
The Litchfield Coounty Times

Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton up and walking after brain surgery
August 9, 2017
Danbury NewsTimes

UPMC-Developed Fiber Tracking Technology Being Called Life-Changing For Cancer Patients
September 8, 2016
KDKA-TV Evening News

Crown prince of Serbia seeks Pittsburgh medical expertise for his homeland
April 26, 2015
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Crown Prince Alexander and Crown Princess Katherine at a Charity Dinner in Pittsburgh
April 25, 2015

Neurosurgical treatments give patients chance at pain-free lives
February 7, 2015
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Hospitals bank on neurosurgery procedures to boost bottom line
February 7, 2015
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Talented woodworker survives brain cancer after delicate surgery
December 24, 2014
WTAE-TV 4 Pittsburgh

Bride Walks Down the Aisle
October 7, 2014

Friedlander Discusses Brain Aneurysms
August 20, 2014
KDKA Radio Morning News

Why Major League Pitchers Won’t Wear This Weird Hat
July 24, 2014
New York Times Magazine

Surgery can fix brain aneurysm; support can help recovery
July 7, 2014
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

New Study Supports Conservative Management Over Intervention for Unruptured Brain AVMs
June 5, 2014
Neurology Today

Study shows for first time how Huntington's disease protein could cause death of neurons
May 19, 2014
Medical Xpress

Pitt Study Shows How Huntington’s Disease Protein Could Cause Death of Neurons
May 19, 2014
Gant Daily

Former college football player, city firefighter sues NCAA over concussions
December 17, 2013
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Ex-player sues NCAA over football injuries
December 17, 2013
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Foundations give Pitt $100,000 for ALS research
October 7, 2013

Pitt findings on Lou Gehrig's disease may hold hope
April 26, 2013
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Melatonin Delays ALS Symptom Onset and Death in Mice
April 25, 2013
Science Daily

Cerebral Aneurysms: Analyzing the Treatment Shift
February 13, 2013
Physician's Weekly

Melatonin Delays Onset, Reduces Deaths in Mouse Model of Huntington’s Disease
October 11, 2011
Science Daily

Rep. Giffords has surgery to repair skull
May 19, 2011
Washington Times (Associated Press)

Caspases—Guilty of Murder in First, and Now Second Degrees
March 12, 2011
Altzheimer Research Forum

UPMC Doctor Discusses Prognosis For Rep. Gabrielle Giffords
January 10, 2011
WTAE-TV (Pittsburgh) Action News

Blocking Apoptosis Delays ALS in Mice
October 15, 2010
Altzheimer Research Forum

The lasting impact of concussions
August 18, 2010
Yahoo! Sports

What caused the woman's headache and paralysis?
July 13, 2004
Boston Globe

Newsmaker: Dr. Robert Friedlander
June 17, 2010
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Antibiotic May Slow Gehrig's Disease
May 6, 2002
Associated Press 

An Old Antibiotic Generates New Hopes
July 11, 2000
New York Times

Minocycline slows progress of Huntington's disease in mice
July 8, 2000
British Medical Journal

Antibiotic may help fight Huntington's
June 27, 2000
USA Today

Brain drug shows promise: Slows ALS, may treat other diseases
April 14, 2000
Boston Herald

Lou Gehrig's disease slowed in mice
April 14, 2000
Boston Globe (Associated Press)

Way To Delay Huntington's Disease Found
June 19, 1999
Harvard University Gazette

Scientists slow progress of Huntington's in mice
May 20, 1999

Hope in Brain-Disorder Fight/Tests yield Huntington's clues
May 20, 1999

Approach may slow Huntington’s
May 19, 1999

Scientists slow progress of Huntington's in mice
May 19, 1999
ABC News

Study Targets Huntington's Key
May 19, 1999
CBS News 

UPMC Videos

High Definition Fiber Tractography
Dr. Friedlander discusses High definition fiber tractography (HDFT) at UPMC.

Carotid Stenosis
Dr. Friedlander discusses the diagnosis and treatment of carotid stenosis. (ver en Español)

Chiari Malformation
Dr. Friedlander discusses the diagnosis and treatment of Chiari Malformations. (ver en Español)

Trabajo en Equipo
Dr. Friedlander discute el enfoque del trabajo en equipo para el tratamiento de pacientes neuroquirúrgicos en UPMC.

Dr. Friedlander analiza las opciones de tratamiento de los aneurismas no rotos en UPMC.

Neurosurgery at UPMC: A powerful team approach
Dr. Friedlander discusses the power of a team approach to treating neurosurgical patients at UPMC.