Dr. Brian Nieman

Investigator II

Pediatric cancers are treated with substantial success, so that ~80% of children can expect to be cured of their disease. Unfortunately, as an increasing number of children are surviving and living into their adult years, it has also become clear that there are frequently debilitating side effects that affect long-term quality of life. Radiation and chemotherapy, which are central to many treatments, are associated with some of these side effects, including cognitive and behavioural impairments that affect children’s memory, thinking speed, and performance in school. However, the mechanism by which these side effects develop remains unclear. Dr. Brian Nieman’s lab is pursuing a combination of clinical studies and mouse research to characterize the developmental consequences of childhood cancer treatment and sensitizing/mitigating factors.

Radiation therapy is an important part of treatment for brain tumours and high-risk leukemias. The Nieman group is investigating how radiation alters brain development by manipulating processes of apoptosis, neurogenesis and inflammation, and determining how each contribute to developmental impairments. They are also testing a variety of interventions for their ability to promote improved developmental outcomes.

Similarly, chemotherapy treatment is the frontline treatment for childhood leukemias. While it is less toxic to the brain than radiotherapy, developmental impairments are still observed. Chemotherapy is also associated with risk for heart problems. The Nieman group is systematically evaluating each of many chemotherapy agents to determine which are most responsible. The agents deemed most toxic are being evaluated in more detail to isolate the mechanism of impaired development. Long-term goals are to promote improved brain development and quality of life in childhood cancer patients.

Current affiliations

  • Investigator II, OICR;
  • Senior Scientist, Translational Medicine, The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids);
  • Scientist, Mouse Imaging Centre, The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids);
  • Assistant Professor, Department of Medical Biophysics, University of Toronto.

Research interests

  • Childhood cancer treatment;
  • Radiotherapy;
  • Chemotherapy;
  • “Late effects”;
  • Combined human studies and mouse models;
  • Magnetic resonance imaging;
  • 3D imaging;
  • Phenotyping in mouse disease models.

Select publications

de Guzman AE, Ahmed M, Li YQ, Wong CS, Nieman BJ.
p53-loss mitigates early volume deficits in the brains of irradiated young mice.
Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 2018; Epub ahead of print.

Spencer Noakes TL, Przybycien TS, Forwell A, Nicholls C, Zhou YQ, Butcher DT, Weksberg R, Guger SL, Spiegler BJ, Schachar RJ, Hitzler J, Ito S, van der Plas E, Nieman BJ.
Brain development and heart function after systemic single-agent chemotherapy in a mouse model of childhood leukemia treatment.
Clin Cancer Res. 2018; Epub ahead of print.

Beera KG, Li YQ, Dazai J, Stewart J, Egan S, Ahmed M, Wong CS, Jaffray DA, Nieman BJ.
Altered brain morphology after focal radiation reveals impact of off-target effects: implications for white matter development and neurogenesis.
Neuro Oncol. 2018; 20(6):788-798.

van der Plas E, Schachar RJ, Hitzler J, Crosbie J, Guger SL, Spiegler BJ, Ito S, Nieman BJ.
Brain structure, working memory and response inhibition in childhood leukemia survivors.
Brain Behav. 2017; 7(2):e00621.

Nieman BJ, de Guzman AE, Gazdzinski LM, Lerch JP, Chakravarty MM, Pipitone J, Strother D, Fryer C, Bouffet E, Laughlin S, Laperriere N, Riggs L, Skocic J, Mabbott DJ.
White and Gray Matter Abnormalities After Cranial Radiation in Children and Mice.
Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 2015; 93(4):882-91.

See Dr. Nieman’s recent publications on PubMed.


  • Mouse magnetic resonance imaging.

Previous experience and education

  • Postdoctoral Fellow, Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine, New York University School of Medicine;
  • PhD, Department of Medical Biophysics, University of Toronto.

Opportunities to collaborate

Dr. Nieman’s group provides collaborative opportunities involving 3D imaging with magnetic resonance imaging, x-ray computed tomography, ultrasound and 3D optical imaging.

Visit OICR’s Collaborative Research Resources directory for more opportunities to collaborate with OICR researchers.

Related links

Mouse Imaging Centre (MICe)

SickKids Staff Profile – Dr. Brian Neiman

Contact information

Dr. Brian Nieman