Nicholas Alexander Vitanza, MD


On staff since August 2016

Academic Title: Assistant Professor

Research Center: Ben Towne Center for Childhood Cancer Research

"I am grateful to have trained with remarkable teachers at Stony Brook, NYU, and Stanford who shared their knowledge and instilled in me the drive to provide compassionate and comprehensive care to children with central nervous system tumors. Since arriving at Seattle Children's Hospital, I have been fortunate to find an equally dedicated team of clinicians and researchers who work tirelessly to advance our care and our understanding of pediatric CNS tumors. In order to find for more effective and safer cures, I help lead laboratory research investigating diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG) at the Fred Hutch Cancer Research Center and I assist in developing CNS immunotherapy trials at the Ben Towne Center for Childhood Cancer Research. Most importantly, I care for children and young adults with brain and spinal cord tumors."

  • I first became interested in pediatric oncology because it combined both of his passions: working with critically ill children and participating in basic science research. During my pediatric hematology/oncology fellowship at NYU I gained exposure to pediatric neuro-oncology, in which patients are often very ill on presentation, require extensive surgeries, endure prolonged treatment courses, and generally experience poorer outcomes than other pediatric cancer patients. This inspired my focus on children with central nervous system (CNS) tumors, but to receive the best translational laboratory training possible while at NYU, I joined Drs. William Carroll and Elizabeth Raetz’s Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) Lab. At NYU, I completed two basic research projects, including an evaluation of role of IKZF1 in childhood ALL and another evaluating a CDK4/6 inhibitor, which is leading to a COG clinical trial.


    I continued my clinical and laboratory training during a second fellowship in pediatric neuro-oncology at Stanford University, during which I also worked in Michelle Monje’s Neuroscience and Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG) Lab. My post-doctoral findings on combinatorial molecularly targeted drug strategies in DIPG led to a commended presentation at the International Society of Pediatric Neuro-Oncology (ISPNO) in Liverpool, provided the preclinical foundation for a DIPG Phase 1 clinical trial, and were published in Cancer Cell. In 2016, I joined the faculty at Seattle Children’s Hospital where I care for children with CNS tumors and became an Affiliate Investigator at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in the Lab of Jim Olson, MD, PhD, aiming to target DIPG’s molecular aberrations and better understand its immune microenvironment. Working with Drs. Mike Jensen and Julie Park, I also am the Principal Investigator of BrainChild-01, a Phase I study of CNS locoregional immunotherapy therapy with a HER2-specific chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) delivered by an indwelling CNS catheter to children and young adults with a recurrent/refractory HER2-positive CNS tumor and will soon be opening a CAR T cell trial specifically for children with DIPG.


    • Scott Issaquah, WA 04.11.19

      In November of 2017, my 12-year-old son was diagnosed with a brain tumor at Seattle Children's Hospital. Dr. Vitanza lead a team of doctors, nurses, surgeons, technicians and radiologists with the sole purpose of saving my son's life. Dr. Vitanza wears many hats. He is a pediatric oncologist, renowned brain cancer researcher and father. We felt the presence of all of these roles in his work from delivering diagnoses, crafting and communicating a plan and in the compassion he shows in leading you through the one of the most terrifying journeys a parent can walk, a brain cancer diagnosis in their child. Dr. Vitanza makes a clear effort to personally connect with his patients and support parents with their questions and concerns. The care he shows in elevating his professional standards as a doctor show in his reputation amongst cancer families. Dr. Vitanza was the physician that first told us our son had cancer and 6 difficult months later, he was the physician that told us our son's brain showed no evidence of disease. We are forever indebted to Dr. Vitanza's professional excellence and the humanity that consistently precedes it.

    • Wendy Newcastle 02.17.19

      A pediatric hematologist-oncologist is not a doctor I ever thought our family would have in our address book. With a child who has appointments in the Hemoc Clinic, we are now part of a club that nobody wants to join, and the dues required to belong to this club are more than anyone would ever want to pay. But now that we find ourselves a part of this club, we are beyond grateful that Dr. Vitanza is our doctor. Given our daughter’s complicated situation (tumor in spine involving Neuro and Ortho), we have several, but he is our main go-to physician. From the moment we met him we were very fond of him. In one of the most frightening situations one can be dealt in life, his soft spoken delivery, empathetic nature, medical knowledge, and brilliance is very appreciated. He explains things patiently and thoroughly. Dr. Vitanza is always quick to respond with any question that we have. He promptly addresses our concerns and/or puts us in the right hands to do so. With the frightening feelings and urgent nature of care needed that accompany a sick child, having the support of Dr. Vitanza on board is priceless. We (and most importantly our daughter) think he is amazing and adore him!

    • Kristie Seattle, WA 09.21.17

      In our ten months at SCH, we had countless interactions with surgeons, oncologists, nurses, lab technicians, therapists, receptionists, assistants, parking attendants, etc. Some have been better than others, but overall, we were very happy with our care. There is however one individual that truly stands out among them all. Nick Vitanza. I'll never forget the day we met Dr. Vitanza. We were learning the fate of our 11 year old daughter. We gathered in a room with what would become our team. The people that would become our family in so many ways. Today, I can honestly say I genuinely like and respect each and every person that was in that room that first day. I consider them our friends and confidants. They were delivering to us the hardest news one has to deliver to anyone. That our daughter had an extremely rare, highly aggressive, brain tumor in an impossible to get to location. We were given a wealth of information and none of it was good. Nick had just started at SCH days before. I could tell he was the new guy, not only because it was mentioned, but also because he was slightly hesitant in when to speak, wanting to be respectful to his own new team. But he did speak and one of the most clear things I remember from that blur of a meeting is him stopping me at the end, looking me straight in the eye and saying clearly and plainly, "We will take excellent care of your daughter." I held onto that promise and you know what, they did. And in particular, Nick Vitanza did. He truly went above and beyond. His bedside manner is unmatched. He is thoughtful, extremely sharp, caring, respectful and always makes you feel like you're his only patient, which I imagine has got to be a real challenge knowing what their caseload looks like. Dr. Vitanza works tirelessly on behalf of our children and SCH is very lucky to have him.

  • Award Name Award Description Awarded By Award Date
    Outstanding Research Award Stanford University, 7th Annual Stanford Pediatric Research Retreat 2016
    Outstanding Research Commendation International Society of Pediatric Neuro-Oncology Conference, Liverpool, UK 2016
    Young Investigator Award American Society of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology 2014
    Research Training Award for Fellows (RTAF) American Society of Hematology 2013
    Frances Pope Memorial Foundation Fellow New York University Langone Medical Center 2012
    Resident Researcher of the Year Award Stony Brook University 2011
    Resident Teacher of the Year Award Stony Brook University 2009
  • Manuscripts in Refereed Journals

    • Bayart CB, Ishak GE, Finn LS, Lee A, Baran F, Sun A, Gupta D, Vitanza NA
      Pilocytic astrocytoma with leptomeningeal spread in a patient with incontinentia pigmenti presenting with unilateral nystagmus.
      29171168 Pediatric blood and cancer, 2018 March : 65(3)
    • Lieberman NAP, Vitanza NA, Crane CA
      Immunotherapy for brain tumors: understanding early successes and limitations.
      29322843 Expert review of neurotherapeutics, 2018 Jan. 11 : 1-9
    • Rogawski DS, Vitanza NA, Gauthier AC, Ramaswamy V, Koschmann C
      Integrating RNA sequencing into neuro-oncology practice.
      28746860 Translational research : the journal of laboratory and clinical medicine, 2017 Nov. : 18993-104 PMCID:PMC5659901
    • Marini BL, Benitez LL, Zureick AH, Salloum R, Gauthier AC, Brown J, Wu YM, Robinson DR, Kumar C, Lonigro R, Vats P, Cao X, Kasaian K, Anderson B, Mullan B, Chandler B, Linzey JR, Camelo-Piragua SI, Venneti S, McKeever PE, McFadden KA, Lieberman AP, Brown N, Shao L, Leonard MAS, Junck L, McKean E, Maher CO, Garton HJL, Muraszko KM, Hervey-Jumper S, Mulcahy-Levy JM, Green A, Hoffman LM, Dorris K, Vitanza NA, Wang J, Schwartz J, Lulla R, Smiley NP, Bornhorst M, Haas-Kogan DA, Robertson PL, Chinnaiyan AM, Mody R, Koschmann C
      Blood-brain barrier-adapted precision medicine therapy for pediatric brain tumors.
      28860053 Translational research : the journal of laboratory and clinical medicine, 2017 Oct. : 18827.e1-27.e14 PMCID:PMC5584679
    • Nagaraja S, Vitanza NA, Woo PJ, Taylor KR, Liu F, Zhang L, Li M, Meng W, Ponnuswami A, Sun W, Ma J, Hulleman E, Swigut T, Wysocka J, Tang Y, Monje M
      Transcriptional Dependencies in Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma.
      28434841 Cancer cell, 2017 May 8 : 31(5)635-652.e6 PMCID:PMC5462626
    • Vitanza NA, Partap S
      Pediatric Ependymoma.
      26503805 Journal of child neurology, 2016 Oct. : 31(12)1354-66
    • Vitanza NA
      50 Years Ago in TheJournal ofPediatrics: Induction of Remission in Acute Leukemia of Childhood by Combination of Prednisone and Either 6-Mercaptopurine or Methotrexate.
      27234282 The Journal of pediatrics, 2016 June : 173100
    • Vitanza NA, Shaw TM, Gardner SL, Allen JC, Harter DH, Karajannis MA
      Noncarboplatin-induced Sensorineural Hearing Loss in a Patient With an Intracranial Nongerminomatous Germ Cell Tumor.
      23652864 Journal of pediatric hematology/oncology, 2016 May : 38(4)312-6
    • Vitanza NA, Cho YJ
      Advances in the biology and treatment of pediatric central nervous system tumors.
      26709691 Current opinion in pediatrics, 2016 Feb. : 28(1)34-9
    • Vitanza NA, Hogan LE, Zhang G, Parker RI
      The Progression of Bone Mineral Density Abnormalities After Chemotherapy for Childhood Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.
      25222061 Journal of pediatric hematology/oncology, 2015 July : 37(5)356-61
    • Vitanza NA
      50 Years Ago in The Journal of Pediatrics: A Long-Term Study of Cerebrospinal Leukemia.
      26117636 The Journal of pediatrics, 2015 July : 167(1)80
    • Vitanza NA, Hogan LE, Zhang G, Parker RI
      The Progression of Bone Mineral Density Abnormalities After Chemotherapy for Childhood Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.
      25222061 Journal of pediatric hematology/oncology, 2015 July : 37(5)356-61
    • Vitanza NA, Zaky W, Blum R, Meyer JA, Wang J, Bhatla T, Morrison DJ, Raetz EA, Carroll WL
      Ikaros deletions in BCR-ABL-negative childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia are associated with a distinct gene expression signature but do not result in intrinsic chemoresistance.
      24976218 Pediatric blood and cancer, 2014 Oct. : 61(10)1779-85 PMCID:PMC4217284
    • Bhatla T, Jones CL, Meyer JA, Vitanza NA, Raetz EA, Carroll WL
      The biology of relapsed acute lymphoblastic leukemia: opportunities for therapeutic interventions.
      24942023 Journal of pediatric hematology/oncology, 2014 Aug. : 36(6)413-8 PMCID:PMC4264573

    Book Chapters

    • Vitanza NA, Campen CJ, Fisher PG
      Epidemiology of Pediatric CNS Tumors
      Brain Tumors in Children, 2018
    • Vitanza NA, Fisher PG, Monje M.
      Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma
      Swaiman's Pediatric Neurology: Principles and Practice 6th Edition, 2017

  • Grant Title Grantor Amount Award Date
    Defeat DIPG/ChadTough Young Investigator Award 2019 - 2020
    McKenna Claire Foundation for Pediatric Brain Cancer Research Award McKenna Claire Foundation Jan. 1, 2017 - Jan. 1, 2018
    American Society of Hematology Research Training Award American Society of Hematology July 1, 2013 - June 30, 2014
    Brotman Baty Institute for Precision Medicine Catalytic Collaboration Award


Board Certification(s)

Pediatric Hematology-Oncology

Medical/Professional School

American University of the Caribbean, St. Maarten


Pediatrics, Stony Brook School of Medicine, Stony Brook


Pediatric Hematology Oncology, NYU Langone Medical Center, New York
Pediatric Neuro-Oncology, Stanford University, Palo Alto

Clinical Interests

Brain and spinal cord tumors of childhood

Research Description

My basic science research has aimed to evaluate new, targeted drugs against pediatric cancers, including the use of combined molecularly-targeted agents against diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG). My focus is to translate this work into new treatment options for children with brain and spinal cord tumors.

Research Focus Area

Cancer biology, Brain tumor