Nicholas Alexander Vitanza, MD

Nicholas Alexander Vitanza, MD

Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, Brain Tumor Program, Apheresis

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, my lab in the Ben Towne Center for Childhood Cancer Research investigates diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG) and other aggressive pediatric central nervous system (CNS) tumors (meaning of the brain and spine). Most importantly, at Seattle Children's I care for children and young adults with CNS tumors."

  • My career is dedicated to the care of children with central nervous system (CNS) tumors and specifically the study of diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG) and diffuse midline glioma, H3 K27M-mutant (DMG). During my pediatric oncology fellowship with Drs. Elizabeth Raetz and Bill Carroll, my labwork led to a COG clinical trial and an ASPHO’s Young Investigator Early Career award. Next, I completed a pediatric neuro-oncology fellowship at Stanford University, where I continued as a post-doc in Dr. Michelle Monje’s neuroscience/DIPG Lab. There, I helped to identify combinatorial epigenetically-targeted drug strategies in DIPG that was published in Cancer Cell and provided the preclinical foundation for a phase 1 clinical trial. In 2016, I joined the faculty at Seattle Children’s where, under Drs. Mike Jensen and Julie Park, I serve as the CNS CAR T cell Lead, helping to oversee one of the largest pediatric CNS CAR T cell programs in the world. I am the PI of two Phase 1 locoregional clinical trials using CAR T cells: BrainChild-01 targeting HER2 in children with a recurrent/refractory HER2-positive CNS tumors and BrainChild-03 targeting B7-H3 in children with recurrent/refractory CNS tumors and DIPG, the first trial to deliver intra-CNS CAR T cells to a child with DIPG.

    In my lab within the Ben Towne Center for Childhood Cancer Research at Seattle Children’s Research Institute, we focus on creating treatment-naïve biopsy-derived patient-derived DIPG models to learn how to target DIPG’s molecular and immunologic vulnerabilities. Our team also optimizes CAR T cell therapies for pediatric CNS tumors and translates these findings into truly biology-driven clinical trials aimed at improving outcomes for affected children.

    • Related Pages

    • Vitanza Lab

      The Vitanza lab searches for new treatments that are both safe and curative for aggressive pediatric brain and spinal cord tumors, such as diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG), diffuse midline glioma H3 K27M-mutant (DMG), and atypical teratoid rhabdoid tumor (ATRT).

    • Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma Research Program

      Diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG) and diffuse midline gliomas (DMG) are aggressive childhood cancers. The DIPG Research Program at Seattle Children’s focuses on development of new therapies for aggressive brain and central nervous system tumors through optimization of clinical care.

    • Ryan Sandy Utah 04.06.21

      Dr Vitanza is the absolute best of the best. He has been guiding us with our five year old daughter, who was diagnosed with DIPG brain cancer, since the summer of 2020. Not only is he extremely knowledgeable about his field of work, he is extremely compassionate and goes above and beyond to to provide support to families that have been dealt the most unimaginable diagnosis for their child. I feel that Dr. Vitanza has the children’s absolutely best interest at heart and his medical advice is a balance of beating the disease they have, while factoring in the best possible quality of life for their situation. I have never met a medical professional to his degree of patient dedication. He is also extremely responsive to any questions or concerns we have had and has an unrivaled response time to any questions we have directed to him. I am a hard person to gain my loyalty and trust and I can assure you that Dr. Vitanza has my complete trust for guidance for my daughter whom I care more about than anyone in this world. I would normally try and add some negative qualities to a review like this for a balanced critique but I honestly have nothing negative to say. Seattle Children’s is fortunate to have such dedicated Dr’s and staff.

    • 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
    Cookies for Kid's Cancer Translational Science Award 2021 - 2023
    Defeat DIPG/ChadTough Young Investigator Award 2019 - 2020
    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 DIPG and DMG. My focus is to translate this work into new treatment options for children with brain and spinal cord tumors, including through CAR T cell clinical trials.

Research Focus Area

Cancer biology, Brain tumor