Nader Sanai, MD

Director, Neurosurgical Oncology
Director, Barrow Brain Tumor Research Center, Barrow Neurological Institute

Adjunct Professor of Life Sciences, Arizona State University

E-Mail Address: 
Phone Number: 
(602) 406-3135
(602) 406-6110
Short Bio: 

Dr. Nader Sanai is a Barrow neurosurgical oncologist internationally-recognized for his clinical expertise and research efforts dedicated to the treatment of brain tumors.

Dr. Sanai attended the University of California at San Diego (UCSD), where he graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in French Literature and a Bachelor of Science in Physiology and Neuroscience. He obtained his Doctorate in Medicine at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF), where he also completed his residency in Neurological Surgery. In 2009, Dr. Sanai joined the Barrow Neurological Institute (BNI) to complete a clinical fellowship in skull-base surgery with Dr. Robert F. Spetzler. He then was recruited by Dr. Spetzler to join the BNI as Director of Neurosurgical Oncology.

To date, Dr. Sanai has published over 75 peer-reviewed research articles and has received a host of career accolades, including the Academy Award from the American Academy of Neurological Surgery. Other prestigious honors include two NIH R01 grants, as well as grants from the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the Arizona Biomedical Research Commission, the Ben & Catherine Ivy Foundation, the American Brain Tumor Association, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and the American Association of Neurological Surgeons.

Clinical Information
Clinical Focus: 

Dr. Sanai’s clinical practice is devoted entirely to patients with tumors of the brain and spine, including those in high-risk areas. He is the only neurosurgeon in Arizona who specializes in intraoperative mapping techniques to preserve motor and language function during tumor removal. Gliomas, meningiomas, metastatic tumors, and complex tumors of the skull-base are just some of the tumor types he routinely treats using both operative and radiosurgery techniques.

Research Information
Research Program: 
3. Cancer Biology
Member Status: 
Affiliate Member
Year of Membership Acceptance: 
Summary of Research Activity: 

As the Director of the Barrow Brain Tumor Research Center (BBTRC), Dr. Sanai oversees all of the Barrow’s clinically-directed brain tumor research, enabling the program to pioneer new clinical trials for patients with brain tumors. Within the BBTRC, Dr. Sanai also serves as the Principal Investigator of the Laboratory for Stem Cell Neuro-Oncology, which is funded by over a dozen external granting agencies, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Selected Publications: 

1. Nader Sanai, Anthony D. Tramontin, Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa, Nicholas M. Barbaro, Nalin Gupta, Sandeep Kunwar, Michael T. Lawton, Michael W. McDermott, Andrew T. Parsa, José Manuel-García Verdugo, Mitchel S. Berger, and Arturo Alvarez-Buylla. “Unique Periventricular Niche in Adult Human Brain Contains Astrocytic Stem Cells but No Evidence of Chain Migration”. Nature, 2004 Feb 19; 427(6976): 740-4.

2. Nader Sanai, Arturo Alvarez-Buylla, and Mitchel S. Berger. “Neural Stem Cells and the Origin of Human Gliomas”. The New England Journal of Medicine, 2005 Aug 21; 353(8): 811-822.

3. Nader Sanai, Zaman Mirzadeh, and Mitchel S. Berger. “Functional Outcome after Language Mapping for Glioma Resection”. The New England Journal of Medicine, 2008 Jan 3; 358(1): 18-27.

4. Nader Sanai and Mitchel S. Berger. “Glioma Extent of Resection and its Impact on Patient Outcome”. Neurosurgery, 2008 Apr, 62(4):753-66.

5. Nader Sanai, Mei-Yin Polley, and Mitchel S. Berger. “Insular Glioma Resection: Assessment of Patient Morbidity, Tumor Progression, and Survival”. Journal of Neurosurgery, Jul 17. 2010 Jan; 112(1):1-9.

6. Nader Sanai, Michael E. Sughrue, Gopal Shangari, Mitchel S. Berger, and Michael W. McDermott. “Risk Profile Associated with Convexity Meningioma Resection in the Modern Neurosurgical Era”. Journal of Neurosurgery, 2010 May; 112(5):913-9.

7. Nader Sanai and Michael W. McDermott. “A Modified Far-lateral Approach for Large or Giant Meningiomas of the Posterior Fossa”. Journal of Neurosurgery. 2010 May; 112(5):907-12.

8. Nader Sanai, Mei-Yin Polley, Michael W. McDermott, Andrew T. Parsa, and Mitchel S. Berger. “An Extent of Resection Threshold for Newly-Diagnosed Glioblastomas”. Journal of Neurosurgery 2011 Jul;115(1):3-8.

9. Nader Sanai, Laura Snyder, Norissa Honea, Jenny Eschbacher, Steven W. Coons, Kris A. Smith, and Robert F. Spetzler. “Intraoperative confocal microscopy in the visualization of 5-aminolevulinic acid fluorescence in low-grade gliomas”. Journal of Neurosurgery. 2011 Oct;115(4):740-8.

Collaborative Research: 

Dr. Sanai is an Adjunct Professor of Life Science at ASU and conducts joint research with Dr. Jeffrey L. Yarger, Director of the ASU Magnetic Resonance Research Center. This collaboration between the Sanai and Yarger Laboratories is designed to identify and exploit magnetic resonance (MR) spectroscopic signatures associated with brain tumor stem cells.

Dr. Sanai is also an adjunct member of the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) and collaborates with their Brain Tumor Biology Section.

Professional Information
Professional Affiliations: 
  • American Association of Cancer Research (2005-present)
  • American Society of Clinical Oncology (2005-present)
  • San Francisco Neurological Society (2004-present)
  • American Association of Neurological Surgeon (2003-present)
  • Congress of Neurological Surgeon (2003-present)
  • Society for Neuroscience (2001-present)
  • American Brain Tumor Association (2000-present)
  • National Brain Tumor Foundation (1999-present)
  • Preuss Award, Congress of Neurological Surgeons (2010)
  • National Brain Tumor Foundation Mahaley Award, American Association of Neurological Surgeons (2010)
  • Honorable Mention, 2009 Academy Award, American Academy of Neurological Surgery (2009)
  • Howard Naffziger Resident of the Year Award, UCSF Department of Neurological Surgery (2009)
  • Guest Editor, Neurosurgery Clinics of North America, Neural Stem Cells Issue (2007)
  • Kaiser Award for Clinical Research, San Francisco Neurological Society (2007)
  • Invited Lecturer, Frye-Halloran Symposium on Neuro-Oncology, Massachusetts General Hospital Department of Neurological Surgery (2005)
  • Edwin F. Boldrey Award for Basic Science Research, San Francisco Neurological Society (2004)
  • Dean’s Research Prize Finalist, UC San Francisco (1999)
  • Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society (1997-present)
Academic Information
Skull-Base Surgery, Barrow Neurological Institute
Neurological Surgery, University of California at San Francisco
Medical School: 
M.D., University of California at San Francisco
Undergraduate School: 
B.S., University of California at San Diego