Faculty Focus - Peter Dirks


Peter Dirks, MD, PhD, FRCSCdirks_Fac Focus

A graduate of Queen’s University Medical School in 1989, Dr. Dirks entered the Neurosurgery Training Program at The University of Toronto in 1990. During his neurosurgical training, he undertook research studies as a graduate student in experimental neuro-oncology at The University of Toronto, and received his Ph.D. in Cellular and Molecular Pathology in 1998. He became a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada in 1998. After a Clinical Fellowship in Pediatric Neurosurgery at Hopital Enfants Malades in Paris in 1998, he began his Neurosurgical Staff Appointment at The Hospital for Sick Children in 1998. He is currently a Professor in the Department of Surgery at The University of Toronto. His clinical practice is devoted to children with vascular and neoplastic diseases of the nervous system. His research laboratory is within the Arthur and Sonia Labatt Brain Tumour Research Centre at The Hospital for Sick Children where he is currently conducting research in stem cells and cell cycle pathways.

Current Appointments

  • Senior Scientist, Developmental Biology Program, Research Institute, Hospital for Sick Children
  • Principal Investigator, Stem Cell Network, Networks of Centers of Excellence of Canada
  • Professor of Surgery, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto
  • Professor of Medical Genetics, School of Graduate Studies, University of Toronto
  • Professor of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology, School of Graduate Studies, University of Toronto
  • Director, Research Program, Division of Neurosurgery, University of Toronto

Selected Peer-Reviewed Funding

  • Canadian Cancer Society, 2009-2013.
    Defining cancer stem cell and clonal heterogeneity in mouse brain tumours.
    PI: Dirks P.
    $548,000
  • Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), 2008-2013.
    Asymmetrical self renewal in normal and cancer stem cells of the human brain.
    PI: Dirks P.
    $588,180
  • Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), 2008-2013.
    Vectors, epigenetics, and stem cell reprogramming.
    PI: Rottapel R. Co-I's: Dirks P and many others.
    $497,495
  • Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR), Terry Fox Selective Therapeutics Program, 2009-2012.
    Chemical Genomics of Brain Tumor Stem Cells.
    PI: Ellis J. Co-I's: Dirks P and many others.
    $305,000
  • Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR), 2008-2013.
    Genesis Project (Cancer Stem Cells).
    PI: Dick J. Co-I's: Dirks P and many others.
    $750,000

Selected Peer-Reviewed Publications

  • Northcott PA, Shih DJ, Peacock J, Garzia L, Morrissy AS, Zichner T, Stütz AM, Korshunov A, Reimand J, Schumacher SE, Beroukhim R, Ellison DW, Marshall CR, Lionel AC, Mack S, Dubuc A, Yao Y, Ramaswamy V, Luu B, Rolider A, Cavalli FM, Wang X, Remke M, Wu X, Chiu RY, Chu A, Chuah E, Corbett RD, Hoad GR, Jackman SD, Li Y, Lo A, Mungall KL, Nip KM, Qian JQ, Raymond AG, Thiessen NT, Varhol RJ, Birol I, Moore RA, Mungall AJ, Holt R, Kawauchi D, Roussel MF, Kool M, Jones DT, Witt H, Fernandez-L A, Kenney AM, Wechsler-Reya RJ, Dirks P, Aviv T, Grajkowska WA, Perek-Polnik M, Haberler CC, Delattre O, Reynaud SS, Doz FF, Pernet-Fattet SS, Cho BK, Kim SK, Wang KC, Scheurlen W, Eberhart CG, Fèvre-Montange M, Jouvet A, Pollack IF, Fan X, Muraszko KM, Gillespie GY, Di Rocco C, Massimi L, Michiels EM, Kloosterhof NK, French PJ, Kros JM, Olson JM, Ellenbogen RG, Zitterbart K, Kren L, Thompson RC, Cooper MK, Lach B, McLendon RE, Bigner DD, Fontebasso A, Albrecht S, Jabado N, Lindsey JC, Bailey S, Gupta N, Weiss WA, Bognár L, Klekner A, Van Meter TE, Kumabe T, Tominaga T, Elbabaa SK, Leonard JR, Rubin JB, Liau LM, Van Meir EG, Fouladi M, Nakamura H, Cinalli G, Garami M, Hauser P, Saad AG, Iolascon A, Jung S, Carlotti CG, Vibhakar R, Ra YS, Robinson S, Zollo M, Faria CC, Chan JA, Levy ML, Sorensen PH, Meyerson M, Pomeroy SL, Cho YJ, Bader GD, Tabori U, Hawkins CE, Bouffet E, Scherer SW, Rutka JT, Malkin D, Clifford SC, Jones SJ, Korbel JO, Pfister SM, Marra MA, Taylor MD. Subgroup-specific structural variation across 1,000 medulloblastoma genomes. Nature. 2012 Aug 2;488(7409):49-56.
  • Rutka JT, Drake J, Dirks P, Kulkarni A, Taylor M, Humphreys RP. Pediatric neurosurgery at the Hospital for Sick Children, The University of Toronto. Childs Nerv Syst. 2012 Aug;28(8):1127-8.
  • Ellis MJ, Rutka JT, Kulkarni AV, Dirks PB, Widjaja E. Corticospinal tract mapping in children with ruptured arteriovenous malformations using functionally guided diffusion-tensor imaging. J Neurosurg Pediatr. 2012 May;9(5):505-10.
  • Walker EJ, Zhang C, Castelo-Branco P, Hawkins C, Wilson W, Zhukova N, Alon N, Novokmet A, Baskin B, Ray P, Knobbe C, Dirks P, Taylor MD, Croul S, Malkin D, Tabori U. Monoallelic expression determines oncogenic progression and outcome in benign and malignant brain tumors. Cancer Res. 2012 Feb 1;72(3):636-44
  • Hawkins C, Walker E, Mohamed N, Zhang C, Jacob K, Shirinian M, Alon N, Kahn D, Fried I, Scheinemann K, Tsangaris E, Dirks P, Tressler R, Bouffet E, Jabado N, Tabori U. BRAF-KIAA1549 fusion predicts better clinical outcome in pediatric low-grade astrocytoma. Clin Cancer Res. 2011 Jul 15;17(14):4790-8.
  • Gupta S, Vachhrajani S, Kulkarni AV, Taylor MD, Dirks P, Drake JM, Rutka JT. Neurosurgical management of extraaxial central nervous system infections in children. J Neurosurg Pediatr. 2011 May;7(5):441-51.
  • Castelo-Branco P, Zhang C, Lipman T, Fujitani M, Hansford L, Clarke I, Harley CB, Tressler R, Malkin D, Walker E, Kaplan DR, Dirks P, Tabori U. Neural tumor-initiating cells have distinct telomere maintenance and can be safely targeted for telomerase inhibition. Clin Cancer Res. 2011 Jan 1;17(1):111-21.
  • Ellis MJ, Armstrong D, Dirks PB. Large vascular malformation in a child presenting with vascular steal phenomenon managed with pial synangiosis. J Neurosurg Pediatr. 2011 Jan;7(1):15-21.
  • Dirks PB. Brain tumor stem cells: the cancer stem cell hypothesis writ large. Mol Oncol. 2010 Oct;4(5):420-30. Review.

Selected Distinctions and Awards

  • Terry Fox Young Investigator Award, National Cancer Institute of Canada, 2008
  • Royal College Medal in Surgery, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, 2005
  • Canada's Top 40 Under 40, Report on Business Magazine, Caldwell Partners, 2004
  • Bernard Langer Surgeon-Scientist Awards, Department of Surgery, University of Toronto, 2003