The Hirbe Lab is a passionate group of clinicians and scientists working collaboratively with many labs. We use our diverse talents to address a broad range of questions regarding sarcoma biology, especially as it relates to understanding MPNSTs and clinically relevant therapies. Read below to find out more about each person!

Xiaochun Zhang

LAB MANAGER

Beginning in 1997, I was doing research on the role of p53, and p16 in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) at Nanchang University in China. When I arrived at Washington University in 2000, I started working projects on neurodegeneration and cell migration. I then moved on to the Siteman Cancer Tissue Procurement core facility and collaborated with more than 100 cancer research groups. While there, we teamed up with the genomic Institute of Washington University and I started collaborating with Dr. Angela Hirbe. Together I helped her study MPNSTs to better understand the pathogenesis and the biomarkers of the MPNSTs diagnosis and therapy. I’ve been with Dr. Hirbe’s team since September 2016 as a Staff Scientist. My research interests are in the identified BetaIII-spectrin protein as a frequently mutated gene in human MPNSTs, whose function is critical for mouse MPNST growth in vivo and as a potential diagnostic and prognostic marker for MPNST development and progression.

zhang.x@wustl.edu


Carina Dehner

ANATOMIC PATHOLOGY RESIDENT AND FUTURE DERMPATH AND BONE AND SOFT TISSUE FELLOW

My research interest is understanding the molecular-genetic mechanisms of high-grade transformation in mesenchymal neoplasms. In our recent paper, we have shown that Chr8q gain plays a role in high-grade transformation into Malignant Peripheral Nerve Sheath Tumor. We have also shown that Chr8q is associated with worse overall survival in other sarcomas. First, I am hoping to study what types of sarcoma are those showing Chr8q gain using Fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) and TCGA analysis. Then I am hoping to define potential driver genes of high-grade transformation in these sarcomas using PDX, cell culture models, FISH, and trisomy 8 fibroblasts. The overall goal is to identify new, targetable drivers of high-grade transformation in order to establish efficacious and more specific therapeutic options.

cdehner@wustl.edu


Yang Lyu

Staff Scientist

I got my PhD degree in nephrology in 2010, China. In 2018, I moved to Washington University in Saint Louis, starting my single-cell research and bioinformatics work here.

I specialize in NGS data analysis, including tumor microenvironment analysis. I am currently investigating how to apply bioinformatics in tumor precise therapies.

lyu.yang@wustl.edu


Dr. Dana Borcherding

SENIOR SCIENTIST

My research project investigates the role of TYK2 in the pathogenesis of malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors (MPNST), aggressive sarcomas with poor prognosis. Composed of neoplastic Schwann cells, these cancers recur in ~50% of individuals, and most people die within five years of diagnosis, despite surgical resection, radiation, and chemotherapy. Thus, there is an urgent need to identify novel therapeutic targets. Prior work from our laboratory identified TYK2 genetic mutations in a subset of MPNSTs and showed that knockdown of the TYK2 gene in MPNST cell lines decreases proliferation and increases apoptosis in vitro. Furthermore, genetic knockdown of TYK2 in murine MPNST cells resulted in decreased tumor burden of subcutaneous and metastatic tumor models. The goals of my project are to determine the molecular mechanisms of TYK2 action in MPNST cells and whether TYK2 is a prognostic biomarker for MPNST in patient tumor samples. My project will also evaluate pharmacologic inhibition of TYK2 in MPNST in mice. Additionally, I am involved in the development of clinical and genomic databases for patients with MPNST and other sarcomas. The overall aim of my studies is to develop more efficacious therapeutic options for patients with MPNST to improve patient outcomes and survival.

bdana@wustl.edu


Dr. Himanshi Bhatia

POST-DOCTORAL FELLOW


My research interests are focused on utilising patient-derived tumor xenografts (PDX) as a tool to identifying the genetic aberrations prevalent in sarcomas that will further help us in understanding MPNST biology. Aneuploidy is a common hallmark seen in cancers; such chromosomal regions are home to driver genes that are responsible for malignant transformation of various tumors. Using PDX, cell culture models, and clinical features from patient samples, we aim to identify driver mutations present in aneuploid chromosomal regions. Molecular characterisation of such genes will identify multiple candidates that can either serve as biomarkers or as potential drug targets. Additionally, by identifying the interacting partners of the affected genes/proteins, all cancer-related pathways affected in MPNST can be identified. Generation of such molecular networks can pave the way for a robust model for MPNST diagnosis and patient survival analysis.

bhatia.h@wustl.edu


Kuangying Yang

GRADUATE STUDENT RESEARCH ASSISTANT

I am a PhD student in Human & Statistical Genetics at Washington University. My research interests are focused on the genetic profiles and therapeutic targets of MPNSTs. I am aiming to figure out the MPNST pathogenesis with bulk and single cell RNA-Seq analyses so as to explore the novel treatments for patients with NF1-MPNST.

kuangyingyang@wustl.edu


Kevin He

UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCH STUDENT

My project involves understanding whether or not TYK2 expression can be used as a prognostic marker for MPNST.

kevinh@email.wustl.edu


Daniel Schefer

UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCH STUDENT

My project involves characterizing PDX lines as a pre-clinical model and using these lines to evaluate new therapies for MPNST.

dschefer@wustl.edu


Neha Amin

UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCH STUDENT

My project involves evaluating targeting the TYK2 kinase in treating Plexiform NF and MPNST.

amin.n@wustl.edu


Divya Srihari

UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCH STUDENT

My research interests are focused on developing tools to aid in early diagnosis of NF1-MPNSTs. I am particularly interested in utilizing liquid biopsies to detect circulating tumor DNA to aid in early detection of malignant transformation in patients with NF1.

divya.s@email.wustl.edu


Terrie Stald

ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT

tstald@wustl.edu


Lab Alumni

We have been very lucky to have  worked alongside creative and interesting scientists in the Hirbe Lab. Sad for us, they have gone on to continue their aspirations and careers all over the country and the globe.

Vanessa Eulo

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HEMATOLOGY/ONCOLOGY FELLOW

Dr. Vanessa Eulo, Assistant Professor, Sarcoma Section Head, University of Alabama, Birmingham


Hua Xu

VISITING SCHOLAR

Attending physician from The First Affiliated Hospital of Nanchang University, Jiangxi Province, China


Xiaodan Wan

VISITING SCHOLAR

Attending physician from The First Affiliated Hospital of Nanchang University, Jiangxi Province, China


Zhaohe Zhou

GRADUATE STUDENT RESEARCH ASSISTANT

Instructor, Chengdu University, China


Chang In Moon

GRADUATE STUDENT RESEARCH ASSISTANT

PhD student, Baylor College of Medicine


Yuxi Wang

RESEARCH ASSISTANT

Masters student, University of Cambridge


Hillary Dietz

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CLINICAL RESIDENT

Hematology Oncology Fellow, Duke University


Tyler Ball

RESEARCH TECHNICIAN


Olivia Cobb

GRADUATE STUDENT RESEARCH ASSISTANT


Abigail Godec

RESEARCH TECHNICIAN

MD/PhD Candidate at Michigan State


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Wenjing Qin

GRADUATE STUDENT

Associate Researcher, Nanchung University


Xue-Liang Zhou

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POST-DOCTORAL FELLOW

Associate Professor, Nanchung University


Neha Amin and Natalie Loveridge

STARs High School Summer Students – 2019


Emily Ristevski and Avi Saini

STARs High School Summer Students – 2018