Ian F. Pollack, MD

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

Ian Pollack, MD, is chief of pediatric neurosurgery at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, A. Leland Albright Professor of Neurosurgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and co-director of the Neurosurgical Oncology Program at the Hillman Cancer Institute.

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 350 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 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 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.

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-Women's 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 Surgeons (AANS)
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
Society of Surgical Oncology

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

  • Pittsburgh’s Best Doctors, Pittsburgh Magazine, 2012-20
  • 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, 2002-20
  • Who’s Who in America, Marquis, 2005-20
  • Who’s Who in the World, Marquis, 2008-20
  • Castle Connolly’s America’s Top Cancer Doctors, 2005-20
  • 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

Selected Publications

Premkumar DD, Jane EP, Thambireddy S, Sutera P, Cavaleri J, Pollack IF. Mitochondrial dysfunction, RAD51 and Ku80 proteolysis promotes apoptotic effects of Dinaciclib in Bcl-xL silenced cellsMolec Carcinogenesis 57:469-482, 2018.

Müller S, Agnihotri S, Shoger KE, Myers MI, Smith N, Chaparala S, Villanueva CR, Chattopadhyay A, Lee AV, Butterfield LH, Diaz A, Okada H, Pollack IF, Kohanbash G. Peptide vaccine immunotherapy biomarkers and response patterns in pediatric gliomasJCI Insight 3(7):e98791, 2018.

Jakacki RI, Cohen KJ, Buxton A, Krailo MD, Burger PC, Rosenblum MK, Brat DJ, Hamilton RL, Eckel SP, Zhou T, Lavey RS, Pollack IF. Phase 2 study of concurrent radiotherapy and temozolomide followed by temozolomide and lomustine in the treatment of children with high-grade glioma: A report of the Children’s Oncology Group ACNS0423 studyNeuro-Oncology 18:1442-1450, 2016.

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.

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 GroupPediatr 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 gliomasJ 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 StudyJ 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 GroupChild’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 pathwayMolecular 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 ConsortiumNeuro-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 screeningMolec Pharm 76:1246-1255, 2009.

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 to evaluate the role of molecularly targeted therapies for childhood brain tumors with different patterns of genomic alterations. Using pharmacological screening strategies, they have identified agents and agent combinations that had synergistic activity in inhibiting the growth of high-grade and brainstem gliomas. Recognizing that responses to such agents are often transitory in these highly aggressive tumors, they have developed a series of “drug-resistance” tumor model systems, paired with treatment naïve counterparts. They have leveraged this unique resource to built a strong collaboration with the Drug Discovery Institute and the Systems Biology Program, through which they have characterized a heretofore unrecognized mechanism by which pediatric and adult gliomas develop resistance to initially active agents or agent combinations. Using siRNA and pharmacological inhibition, they have demonstrated ways in which this inhibition can be counteracted, which may hold promise for new therapeutic strategies for these tumors. At present, Dr. Pollack’s group is working to validate the generalizability of our observations in different molecularly defined glioma models and with different therapeutic agents, to determine if resistance relies on a common signaling pathway or is the product of different pathways in different tumors in response to different agents. Their preliminary observations suggest the former, which opens a wide niche for therapeutic development. Accordingly, they plan to pursue these in vitro observations in in vivo model systems over the coming year. 

Dr. Pollack’s group has also continued their NIH-funded activities that focus on immunotherapy for pediatric brain tumors. During the last year, they applied RNA sequencing of peripheral blood mononuclear cells in a low-grade glioma cohort to characterize gene expression patterns associated with favorable response to vaccine therapy. They also identified expression patterns that were associated with lack of response. Future efforts will be directed at examining whether these response-associated expression patterns are observed in high-grade glioma and ependymoma cohorts, or are unique to low-grade gliomas. Accrual continues on their ongoing clinical trials for recurrent low-grade gliomas and ependymomas.

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.