hirbe lab

As a practicing medical oncologist who treats sarcoma, my research focuses on utilization of genomic information from sarcomas to better understand the pathogenesis of these tumors and to identify biomarkers and therapeutic targets for these aggressive cancers. After completing my undergraduate degree, I entered into the MD/PhD program at Washington University School of Medicine.  My graduate research was performed in the laboratory of Dr. Katherine Weilbaecher, where I focused on understanding the role of a chemokine receptor, CXCR4, in osteoclast biology and bone metastasis.  I then joined the Physician Scientist Training Program at Washington University and completed residency and fellowship training in Internal Medicine and Oncology.  During fellowship, I chose the Sarcoma Program as my continuity clinic during my post-doctoral years of fellowship (years 2-4).  For my post-doctoral research, I worked in the laboratory of Dr. David Gutmann to study the molecular mechanisms of transformation and metastasis in Neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1)-associated malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors (MPNSTs), the type of sarcoma that I first studied as a teenager when I was accepted into the STARS program.

In 2016, I launched my independent research career. The focus of my laboratory is to utilize genomic information from human sarcoma samples to better understand the development and progression of these cancers.  My main interest is in the pathogenesis of malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors (MPNSTs), an aggressive soft tissue sarcoma that occurs at an increased frequency in patients with the Neurofibromatosis Type 1 (NF1) tumor predisposition syndrome.  Approximately 13% of individuals with NF1 will develop MPNSTs during young adulthood. Currently there are few therapeutic options, and the vast majority of people with these cancers will die within 5 years of diagnosis. I currently have several grants including a SARC career development award, the Francis Collins Scholar Award through NTAP, a pre-clinical grant though the NF Research Institute, a Doris Duke Clinical Investigator grant, and an American Cancer Society Institutional Research grant. With this funding, we have several exciting projects underway in the laboratory all ultimately aimed at improved diagnosis and treatment of MPNSTs.

I also maintain a busy clinical practice caring for patients with sarcoma.  My primary clinical interests are in the management and treatment of NF1-associated MPNSTs and precursor plexiform neurofibromas, bone tumors, PVNS, and desmoid fibromatosis.  I am involved in clinical trial design and enrollment of patients on clinical trials within the sarcoma program.  Given my interest in basic science, translational research, and clinical trial design, my laboratory is an ideal environment to train future translational researchers.