Gary Kohanbash, PhD

  • Assistant Professor
  • Director, PNIO Laboratory

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

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

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

Over the past year, Dr. Kohanbash’s Pediatric Neurosurgery ImmunoOncology Laboratory has focused on three primary areas: 

• Non-invasive molecular imaging strategies to monitor immunotherapy.

Dr. Kohanbash’s NIH-funded work on imaging myeloid cells, which are believed to block immunotherapy from being effective against brain tumors, was published in Molecular Imaging and Biology. He hopes this work will lay a foundation for better patient stratification and monitoring of patients on specific immunotherapies. 

• Development of T-cell-based therapies for pediatric brain tumors.

With funding from the Brain Tumor Funders’ Collaborative (BTFC), Dr. Kohanbash has generated new data this year, using cutting edge single-cell RNAseq. This data will be used for identifying T-cell receptors which may be used as a therapy for pediatric high-grade gliomas and DIPG. This work is an extension and advancement of the department of Neurological Surgery’s long-standing vaccine trials for brain tumor patients. 

• Large-scale immune-transcriptomic analysis of pediatric brain tumors.

In partnership with the Childhood Brain Tumor Tissue Consortium (CBTTC) Dr. Kohanbash has received RNAseq data from one of the largest cohorts of pediatric brain tumor samples ever collected. He has begun analyzing this data and has purchased a new data processing server to allow for robust transcript-based analysis of the immune system across pediatric brain tumors.

Media Appearances