Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Irina Balyasnikova Lab

Our Mission

Our laboratory is dedicated to the advancement and development of translational, cell-based targeted therapy for the treatment of glioblastoma and other brain malignancies. We also aim to develop imaging techniques for the tracking of stem cells in the central nervous system, improving our understanding of therapeutic mechanisms. Finally, as we look towards the future of brain cancer treatment, we are committed to the training of aspiring research professionals.

News and Events

August 2022
New Grant: NIH/NCI R01 CA257958-01A1
Fluorescent Indocarbocyanine PEGylated Lipid Nanoparticles for Understanding and Overcoming Barriers to Drug Delivery in Invasive Glioblastoma. PI: Balyasnikova; Simberg D (contact, University of Colorado). Project period: 08/01/22-07/31/27

June 2022
Congratulations to Silpol Dhiantravan for receiving the Weinberg Baker Fund summer student grant! 

May 5, 2020
Congratulation to Kristen Raue for receiving the Medical Student Research Scholarship award from the American Academy of Neurology. Award for up to 20 medical students across the country to conduct clinical or laboratory research in the field of neurology. Kristen will conduct her studies, developing BiKEs as an immunotherapeutic approach for GBM.

March 25, 2019 
Congratulations to our post-doctoral scholar, Markella Zannikou, Ph.D. On receiving a travel award to present her studies at ASGCT2019, Washington DC.

Congratulations to our post-doctoral scholar, Katarzyna Pituch, Ph.D. for being selected for oral presentation of her studies at ASGCT2019, Washington DC.

December 4, 2018
We are honored to receive RO1 NIH award which will fund studies optimizing CAR T cells’ anti-glioma activity via genetic engineering to enhance their persistence, targeting multiple tumor antigens, and improving their trafficking to tumor site.

July 20, 2018
Congratulation to post-doctoral scholar Katarzyna Pituch, PhD for being awarded the cancer immunotherapy travel fellowship award.

Our research proposal was selected for the Lynn Sage Foundation Research Grant, 2018-19. This grant will support the work of post-doctoral scholar, Dolon Maji, PhD towards developing a nanobody-based platform for molecular imaging/therapy of brain metastases in breast cancer patients.

We are grateful to the Department of Radiology, Northwestern Medicine for a pilot imaging grant supporting the use of preclinical MRI facility. This grant will be used for investigating the application of whole brain radiation for enhancing delivery of imaging/therapeutic agents to brain metastases.

March 14, 2018 
Congratulations to Katarzyna Pituch and all co-authors for publishing the CAR T cells study in Molecular Therapy.

August 25, 2017
The Chicago Biomedical Consortium (CBC) announced Irina Balyasnikova (NU) received Catalyst Awards in Spring 2017 application round.

April 21, 2017
Congratulations to Katarzyna Pituch for being awarded a two year fellowship from the Department of Defense Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs. Her research is titled “Combination of IL13Ralpha2 CAR T-Cell Therapy with PD-1 Immune Checkpoint Blockade for Treatment of Glioblastoma”.

December 14, 2016
Our proposal, Investigating CAR T cells for Glioblastoma Immunotherapy, has been selected for a Translational Bridge Award from the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University. The postdoctoral scholar, Katarzyna C. Pituch, PhD will be supported by the funding from this award.

December 16, 2016
We are grateful to the Nora Redman Endowment Fund from the Community Foundation of Louisville for their generous gift, which will support work of postdoctoral scholar Michael I. Chastkofsky, PhD on a stem cells-based approach for the treatment of pediatric tumor DIPG.

Selected Publications

Balyasnikova IV, Markella Zannikou M,  WangG, Li Y, DuffyJT, Levin RN, Seblani M, Gaikwad H, D. Simberg. Indocarbocyanine lipid nanoparticles extravasate and distribute better than liposomes in GBM models. Journal of Controlled Release. Sep 2022, 349: 413-424. 

Chastkofsky MI, Pituch KC, Katagi H, Zannikou M, Ilut L, Xiao T, Han Y, Sonabend AM, Curiel DT, Bonner ER, Nazarian J, Horbinski CM, James CD, Saratsis AM, Hashizume R, Lesniak MS, Balyasnikova IV*. Mesenchymal Stem Cells Successfully Deliver Oncolytic Virotherapy to Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma. Clin Cancer Res. 2021 Mar 15;27(6):1766-1777. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-20-1499. Epub 2020 Dec 3. PMID: 33272983; PMCID: PMC7956061.  

Pituch KC, Zannikou M, Ilut L, Xiao T, Chastkofsky M, Sukhanova M, Bertolino N, Procissi D, Amidei C, Horbinski CM, Aboody KS, James CD, Lesniak MS, Balyasnikova IV*. Neural stem cells secreting bispecific T cell engager to induce selective antiglioma activity. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2021 Mar 2;118(9):e2015800118. doi: 10.1073/pnas.2015800118. PMID: 33627401; PMCID: PMC7936285.

Wang G, Zannikou M, Lofchy L, Li Y, Gaikwad H, Balyasnikova IV*, Simberg D. Liposomal Extravasation, and Accumulation in Tumors as Studied by Fluorescence Microscopy and Imaging Depend on the Fluorescent Label. ACS Nano. 2021 Jul 1. doi: 10.1021/acsnano.1c02982. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 34197075. 

Babak MV, Chong KR, Rapta P, Zannikou M, Tang HM, Reichert L, Chang MR, Kushnarev V, Heffeter P, Meier-Menches SM, Lim ZC, Yap JY, Casini A, Balyasnikova IV, Ang WH. Interfering with Metabolic Profile of Triple-Negative Breast Cancers Using Rationally Designed Metformin Prodrugs. Angew Chem Int Ed Engl. 2021 Jun 7;60(24):13405-13413. doi: 10.1002/anie.202102266. PMID: 33755286.  

Dey M, Yu D, Kanojia D, Li G, Sukhanova M, Spencer DA, Pituch KC, Zhang L, Han Y, Ahmed AU, Aboody KS, Lesniak MS, Balyasnikova IV. Intranasal Oncolytic Virotherapy with CXCR4-Enhanced Stem Cells Extends Survival in Mouse Model of Glioma. Stem Cell Reports. 2016 Sep 13;7(3):471-82. doi: 10.1016/j.stemcr.2016.07.024. PMID:27594591

Cheng Y, Muroski ME, Petit DC, Mansell R, Vemulkar T, Morshed RA, Han Y, Balyasnikova IV, Horbinski CM, Huang X, Zhang L, Cowburn RP, Lesniak MS. Rotating magnetic field induced oscillation of magnetic particles for in vivo mechanical destruction of malignant glioma. J Control Release 223:75-84, 2016.

Cheng SH, Yu D, Tsai HM, Morshed RA, Kanojia D, Lo LW, Leoni L, Govind Y, Zhang L, Aboody KS, Lesniak MS, Chen CT, Balyasnikova IV. Dynamic In Vivo SPECT Imaging of Neural Stem Cells Functionalized with Radiolabeled Nanoparticles for Tracking of Glioblastoma. J Nucl Med 57(2):279-84, 2016.

Krenciute G, Krebs S, Torres D, Wu MF, Liu H, Dotti G, Li XN, Lesniak MS, Balyasnikova IV, Gottschalk S. Characterization and Functional Analysis of scFv-based Chimeric Antigen Receptors to Redirect T Cells to IL13Rα2-positive Glioma. Mol Ther 24(2):354-63, 2016.

Kim JW, Young JS, Solomaha E, Kanojia D, Lesniak MS, Balyasnikova IV. A novel single-chain antibody redirects adenovirus to IL13Rα2-expressing brain tumors. Sci Rep 5:18133, 2015.

Kanojia D, Balyasnikova IV, Morshed RA, Frank RT, Yu D, Zhang L, Spencer DA, Kim JW, Han Y, Yu D, Ahmed AU, Aboody KS, Lesniak MS. Neural Stem Cells Secreting Anti-HER2 Antibody Improve Survival in a Preclinical Model of HER2 Overexpressing Breast Cancer Brain Metastases. Stem Cells 33(10):2985-94, 2015.

Kim JW, Kane JR, Young JS, Chang AL, Kanojia D, Morshed RA, Miska J, Ahmed AU, Balyasnikova IV, Han Y, Zhang L, Curiel DT, Lesniak MS. A Genetically Modified Adenoviral Vector with a Phage Display-Derived Peptide Incorporated into Fiber Fibritin Chimera Prolongs Survival in Experimental Glioma. Hum Gene Ther 26(9):635-46, 2015.

Irina V Balyasnikova, PhD

Irina V Balyasnikova, PhD
Associate Professor of Neurological Surgery

For more information, click here to visit our department page.