Dr. Peter Dirks

Co-Leader, Brain Cancer TRI

Dr. Peter Dirks is a paediatric neurosurgeon and senior scientist at the Hospital for Sick Children and Professor of Surgery at the University of Toronto. He co-leads OICR’s Brain Cancer Translational Research Initiative.

Dirks’ clinical interests lie with the entire spectrum of pediatric neurosurgical practice, with emphasis on the surgical treatment of childhood brain tumours and brain vascular malformations. His research laboratory is within the Arthur and Sonia Labatt Brain Tumour Research Centre at the Hospital for Sick Children where his focus is on the biology of brain tumours of children and adults, with a primary aim to understand how the molecular programs in normal neural stem cells become perturbed to cause and sustain the growth of these hard-to-treat cancers.  In addition, he is interested in brain tumour heterogeneity and how the diverse cell types that comprise these tumours contribute to tumour maintenance and therapeutic resistance.

Current affiliations

Research interests

  • Brain cancer;
  • Pediatric cancers;
  • Brain tumours;
  • Cancer stem cells;
  • Neural stem cells;
  • Molecular biology.

Top publications

Lan X, Jörg DJ, Cavalli FMG, Richards LM, Nguyen LV, Vanner RJ, Guilhamon P, Lee L, Kushida M, Pellacani D, Park NI, Cusimano MD, Das S, Bernstein M, Arrowsmith CH, Mungall AJ, Moore RA, Ma Y, Gallo M, Lupien M, Pugh TJ, Taylor MD , Hirst M, Eaves CJ , Simons BD, Dirks PB.
Fate mapping of human glioblastoma 1 reveals an invariant stem cell hierarchy.
Nature. 2017;549(7671):227-232.

Park NI, Guilhamon P, Desai K, McAdam RF, Langille E, O’Connor M, Lan X, Whetstone H, Coutinho FJ, Vanner RJ, Ling E, Prinos P, Lee L, Selvadurai H, Atwal G, Kushida M, Clarke ID, Voisin V, Cusimano MD, Bernstein M, Das S, Bader G, Arrowsmith CH, Angers S, Huang X, Lupien M, Dirks PB.
ASCL1 Reorganizes Chromatin to Direct Neuronal Fate and Suppress Tumorigenicity of Glioblastoma Stem Cells.
Cell Stem Cell. 2017;21(3):411.

Dolma S, Selvadurai HJ, Lan X, Lee L, Kushida M, Voisin V, Whetstone H, So M, Aviv T, Park N, Zhu X, Xu C, Head R, Bernstein M, Clarke ID, Bader G, Harrington L, Brumell JH, Tyers M, Dirks PB.
Inhibition of Dopamine Receptor D4 Impedes Autophagic Flux, Proliferation, and Survival of Glioblastoma Stem Cells.
Cancer Cell. 2016;29(6):859-873.

Gallo M, Coutinho FJ, Vanner RJ, Bazett-Jones DP, Lupien M, Dirks PB.
MLL5 Orchestrates a Cancer Self-Renewal State by Repressing the Histone Variant H3.3 and Globally Reorganizing Chromatin.
Cancer Cell. 2015;28(6):715-729.

Vanner RJ, Remke M, Gallo M, Selvadurai HJ, Coutinho F, Lee L, Kushida M, Head R, Morrissy S, Zhu X, Aviv T, Voisin V, Clarke ID, Li Y, Mungall AJ, Moore RA, Ma Y, Jones SJ, Marra MA, Malkin D, Northcott PA, Kool M, Pfister SM, Bader G, Hochedlinger K, Korshunov A, Taylor MD, Dirks PB.
Quiescent Sox2+ Cells Drive Hierarchical Growth and Relapse in Sonic Hedgehog Subgroup Medulloblastoma. 
Cancer Cell. 2014;26(1):33-47.

See Dr. Dirks’ recent publications on PubMed.


  • Fellowship, Royal Society of Canada (FRSC), Canada, 2017;
  • The Hospital for Sick Children, Garron Family Chair in Childhood Cancer Research, 2014;
  • American Association of Neurological Surgeons, Congress of Neurological Surgeons, The Farber Award, 2009;
  • The Terry Fox Foundation, Terry Fox Young Investigator Award, 2008;
  • Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, Gold Medal in Surgery, 2005;
  • Caldwell Partners, Globe and Mail Report on Business, Canada’s Top 40 under 40.

Previous experience

  • PhD, University of Toronto;
  • MD, Queen’s University.

Opportunities to collaborate

To collaborate with Dr. Dirks, please contact him directly.

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

Related links

University of Toronto Surgery Faculty Page – Dr. Peter Dirks

The Hospital for Sick Children Researcher Page – Dr. Peter Dirks


Dr. Peter Dirks