Ian F. Pollack, MD

  • A. Leland Albright Distinguished Professor
  • Vice Chair, Academic Affairs
  • Co-Director, Neurosurgical Oncology
  • Professor of Clinical and Translational Science

Ian Pollack, MD, is 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.

Dr. Pollack has published more than 410 papers in refereed journals, numerous book chapters and invited papers, and has edited three 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 as well as Brain and Spinal Tumors of Childhood, a multinational state-of-the-art text.

He is currently a site principal investigator on NIH grants focusing on novel therapies for brain tumors, including immunotherapy in childhood brain tumors. Dr. Pollack was named vice chair of academic affairs for the department in July of 2008.

He also chaired the Children’s Oncology Group CNS Tumor Committee from 1999-2009, and co-chaired the National Cancer Institute Brain Malignancy Steering Committee between 2010 and 2017, and served on the American Board of Pediatric Neurosurgery from 2012-2022, and as chair the final year, and then served as chair of the ABPNS nominating committee. He is also a former director on the Accreditation Council for Pediatric Neurosurgery Fellowships.

Dr. Pollack was chief of pediatric neurosurgery at UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh for over 20 years before passing those duties on to Taylor Abel, MD, on February 1, 2024.

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

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

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

Professional Organization Membership

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

Professional Activities

Institutional PI, Pediatric Brain Tumor Consortium
Steering Committee, Pediatric Brain Tumor Consortium
Executive Committee, Pediatric Brain Tumor Consortium
Co-Chair, Neurosurgery and Local Delivery Committee, Pediatric Brain Tumor Consortium
Institutional PI, Hydrocephalus Clinical Research Network
Institutional PI, Synostosis Research Group
Past-Chair and Nominating Committee Chair, American Board of Pediatric Neurological Surgery
Director, Accreditation Council for Pediatric Neurosurgery Fellowships

Education & Training

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

Honors & Awards

  • Paul Steinbok Visiting Professorship, University of British Vancouver, 2024
  • Castle Connolly Top Doctors in America, 2012-24
  • Joan Venes Lectureship, University of Michigan, 2019
  • Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award, Marquis Who’s Who, 2018
  • Castle Connolly’s America’s Top Doctors, 2002-22
  • Who’s Who in America, Marquis, 2005-21
  • Who’s Who in the World, Marquis, 2008-21
  • Castle Connolly’s America’s Top Cancer Doctors, 2005-21
  • Certificate of Appreciation for BMSC Co-chairship, National Cancer Institute, 2017
  • E. Bruce Hendrick Visiting Professor in Pediatric Neurosurgery, University of Toronto, 2016
  • Columbia Softball Charity Award, American Association of Neurological Surgeons Annual Meeting, 2016
  • Children’s Brain Tumor Foundation, Award for Scientific Excellence, 2016
  • Winn Prize, Society of Neurological Surgeons, 2015
  • Van Wagenen Lecturer, American Association of Neurological Surgeons Annual Meeting, 2014

Research Activities

Dr. Pollack’s group has extended their studies defining the mechanisms underlying resistance in childhood and adult malignant gliomas. They have expanded the repertoire of “drug-resistance” tumor model systems, paired with treatment naïve counterparts. The group has leveraged this unique resource to identify the glycolytic and pentose phosphate metabolic pathways as a key mediators through which multiple cell lines achieve treatment resistance. Using RNA sequencing studies and pathway analysis, Dr. Pollack and his group have identified several common molecular drivers of this process. Gene set enrichment analysis has demonstrated that these mediators hijack glycolytic signaling and produce as pseudo-hypoxic phenotype. Metabolomic analysis of downstream signaling pathway components have shown an involvement of both glycolytic intermediates and mitochondrial energy metabolites that are amenable to therapeutic intervention. These observations have provided a basis for pharmacological studies that incorporate 2-deoxyglucose for reversing resistance as well as potentiating the efficacy of cytotoxic chemotherapy agents by virtue of their inhibition of DNA synthesis. Metabolic manipulations that may provide novel approaches for promoting tumor cell killing are being tested in animal models. Dr. Pollack’s group has demonstrated dramatic enhancement in survival with treatment in one orthotopic xenograft model and are planning studies using other models and dietary modulation, which may open up several novel strategies for clinical therapies. 

Dr. Pollack and his group have also continued their NIH- and foundation-funded activities that focus on immunotherapy for pediatric brain tumors. Accrual continues on ongoing clinical trials for recurrent low-grade gliomas and ependymoma.

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.