The Kohanbash Lab for the Study of Pediatric Neurosurgery ImmunoOncology

Finding Novel Methods for the Treatment of Central Nervous System Tumors in Children

Through immuno-oncology, medical researchers and clinicians are discovering new and innovative ways to use the body’s immune system to fight cancer. Under the direction of Gary Kohanbash, PhD, the Pediatric Neurosurgery ImmunoOncology Laboratory (PNIO) is specifically targeting deadly pediatric central nervous system tumors through the development of novel immuno-oncology approaches.

With more than a decade of experience in translational brain tumor immunology and involvement in numerous clinical trials, the laboratory has a unique expertise and perspective on high- and low-grade gliomas and ependymomas.

It is now known that the body’s immune cells, such as T-cells, can traffic into the central nervous system (CNS) and mediate anti-tumor responses, but special care must be taken in treatment owing to the immune-privileged status of the CNS and delicate brain structures involved. With significant developments in next-generation DNA sequencing, novel antigens and neoantigens targeting pediatric CNS tumors are being identified by the lab.

Areas of Focus

Improving Peptide Vaccine Immunotherapy

Researchers in the Pediatric Neurosurgery ImmunoOncology Laboratory are focused on bridging the gaps between bioinformatics, preclinical studies, and patient care. Specific emphasis in the PNIO involve improving peptide vaccine immunotherapy through the following projects:

  1. Identification of novel targetable tumor antigens and neoantigens.
  2. Employing combination therapies using checkpoint inhibitors such as anti-PD1 and anti-TIGIT with peptide vaccine immunotherapy.
  3. Understanding how tumor genetics create a hostile environment for T-cell responses at the tumor site.
  4. Enhancing expression of molecules that make the tumor visible to the immune system.
  5. Non-invasive immunoPET of activated T-cells and Tumor-Associate Myeloid Cells (TAMCs) during immuno-oncology therapy.
  6. Identification of biomarkers for CNS immuno-oncology clinical trials.
  7. Single-cell RNA-sequencing to identify immune-cell and tumor cross-talk.
  8. Identification and classification of T-cell receptors to develop patient-specific immune-based therapies.

Lab Team & Contact Information

Gary Kohanbash, PhD

Principal Investigator
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Michal Kurka, MD
Itay Raphael, PhD

Post Doctoral Fellows
Bo Li, PhD
Ambika Parmar, PhD

Research Technicians
ReidAnn Sever
Chaim Sneiderman

Medical Students
Stephen Frederico
Ryan Gilbert
Zujian Xiong

Research Students
Tommy Brower
Ria Trivedi
Sarah Vincze
Gabi Debom, Visiting Scholar 

Contact Us

The Kohanbash Lab for the Study of Pediatric Neurosurgery ImmunoOncology
UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh
John G. Rangos Sr. Research Center, Suite 7128
4401 Penn Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15224

News & Activities

In the News

View current news featuring the research, staff, and advancements of the Kohanbash Pediatric Neurosurgery ImmunoOncology Lab at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh’s Richard King Mellon Institute for Pediatric Research.

Gary Kohanbash Discusses Brain Tumor Immunotherapy
Fridays with Friedlander webcast hosted by Robert M. Friedlander, MD, chairman of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Department of Neurological Surgery (9/11/2020)

Gary Kohanbash, PhD, Receives Grant from St. Baldrick’s Foundation
The ASCO Post (9/25/2017)

Lab Activities and Achievements


Gary Kohanbash, PhD, was awarded a Discovery Grant for innovative research and development from the American Brain Tumor Association for his research project “Theranostic Antibody for Improving Immunotherapy and Immune Monitoring in Glioma.”


Novel EGFRvIII-CAR Transgenic Mice for Rigorous Preclinical Studies in Syngeneic Mice
Chuntova P, Hou Y, Naka R, Yamamichi A, Chen T, Goretsky Y, Hatae R, Nejo T, Kohanbash G, Mende AL, Montoya M, Downey KM, Diebold D, Skinner J, Liang HE, Schwer B, Okada H
2022 Feb 1

Treatment of Glioblastoma with Current oHSV Variants Reveals Differences in Efficacy and Immune Cell Recruitment
Jackson JW, Hall BL, Marzulli M, Shah VK, Bailey L, Chiocca EA, Goins WF, Kohanbash G, Cohen JB, Glorioso JC
Molecular Therapy Oncolytics
2021 Sep 24

Novel Theranostic Agent for PET Imaging and Targeted Radiopharmaceutical Therapy of Tumour-infiltrating Immune Cells in Glioma
Foster A, Nigam S, Tatum DS, Raphael I, Xu J, Kumar R, Plakseychuk E, Latoche JD, Vincze S, Li B, Giri R, McCarl LH, Edinger R, Ak M, Peddagangireddy V, Foley LM, Hitchens TK, Colen RR, Pollack IF, Panigrahy A, Magda D, Anderson CJ, Edwards WB, Kohanbash G
2021 Sep 1

Chitinase-3-like 1 Protein Complexes Modulate Macrophage-mediated Immune Suppression in Glioblastoma
Chen A, Jiang Y, Li Z, Wu L, Santiago U, Zou H, Cai C, Sharma V, Guan Y, McCarl LH, Ma J, Wu YL, Michel J, Shi Y, Konnikova L, Amankulor NM, Zinn PO, Kohanbash G, Agnihotri S, Lu S, Lu X, Sun D, Gittes GK, Wang Q, Xiao X, Yimlamai D, Pollack IF, Camacho CJ, Hu B
The Journal of Clinical Investigation
2021 Aug 16

TIGIT and PD-1 Immune Checkpoint Pathways Are Associated With Patient Outcome and Anti-Tumor Immunity in Glioblastoma
Raphael I, Kumar R, McCarl LH, Shoger K, Wang L, Sandlesh P, Sneiderman CT, Allen J, Zhai S, Campagna ML, Foster A, Bruno TC, Agnihotri S, Hu B, Castro BA, Lieberman FS, Broniscer A, Diaz AA, Amankulor NM, Rajasundaram D, Pollack IF, Kohanbash G
Frontiers in Immunology
2021 May

Blocking NHE1 Stimulates Glioma Tumor Immunity by Restoring OXPHOS Function of Myeloid Cells
Hasan MN, Luo L, Ding D, Song S, Bhuiyan MIH, Liu R, Foley LM, Guan X, Kohanbash G, Hitchens TK, Castro MG, Zhang Z, Sun D
2021, Vol. 11, No. 3

Oncolytic HSV Vectors and Anti-Tumor Immunity
Glorioso JC, Cohen JB, Goins WF, Hall B, Jackson JW, Kohanbash G, Amankulor N, Kaur B, Caligiuri MA, Chiocca EA, Holland EC, Quéva C
Current Issues in Molecular Biology

Blockade of Cell Volume Regulatory Protein NKCC1 Increases TMZ-Induced Glioma Apoptosis and Reduces Astrogliosis
Luo L, Guan X, Begum G, Ding D, Gayden J, Hasan MN, Fiesler VM, Dodelson J, Kohanbash G, Hu B, Amankulor NM, Jia W, Castro MG, Sun B, Sun D
Molecular Cancer Therapeutics
2020 Jul 1

Preclinical ImmunoPET Imaging of Glioblastoma-Infiltrating Myeloid Cells Using Zirconium-89 Labeled Anti-CD11b Antibody
Nigam S, McCarl L, Kumar R, Edinger RS, Kurland BF, Anderson CJ, Panigrahy A, Kohanbash G, Edwards WB
Molecular Imaging and Biology
2020 Jun

The Phenotypes of Proliferating Glioblastoma Cells Reside on a Single Axis of Variation
Wang L, Babikir H, Müller S, Yagnik G, Shamardani K, Catalan F, Kohanbash G, Alvarado B, Di Lullo E, Kriegstein A, Shah S, Wadhwa H, Chang SM, Phillips JJ, Aghi MK, Diaz AA
Cancer Discovery
2019 Dec

Novel and Shared Neoantigen derived from Histone 3 Variant H3.3K27M Mutation for Glioma T Cell Therapy
Chheda ZS,Kohanbash G, Okada K, Jahan N, Sidney J, Pecoraro M, Yang X, Carrera DA, Downey KM, Shrivastav S, Liu S, Lin Y, Lagisetti C, Chuntova P, Watchmaker PB, Mueller S, Pollack IF, Rajalingam R, Carcaboso AM, Mann M, Sette A, Garcia KC, Hou Y, Okada H
Journal of Experimental Medicine
2018 Jan 2

Single-cell Profiling of Human Gliomas Reveals Macrophage Ontogeny as a Basis for Regional Differences in Macrophage Activation in the Tumor Microenvironment
Müller S,Kohanbash G, Liu SJ, Alvarado B, Carrera D, Bhaduri A, Watchmaker PB, Yagnik G, Di Lullo E, Malatesta M, Amankulor NM, Kriegstein AR, Lim DA, Aghi M, Okada H, Diaz A
Genome Biology
2017 Dec 20

Opportunities to Join

We’d Like to Hear From You!

The Kohanbash Pediatric Neurosurgery ImmunoOncology Lab is looking for talented post-doctoral fellows and graduate students interested in helping us to advance our innovative research programs. Candidates may contact Dr. Kohanbash via email