News Story

NF Experts to Present at Research Symposium

Afternoon Session Speakers

The Washington University NF Center will be hosting its third biennial NF Center Symposium on April 1, 2016 in the Eric P. Newman Education Center on the Medical School Campus. In addition to our two keynote speakers, Dr. Alcino Silva and Dr. David Largaespada, we are delighted to showcase research highlights from select researchers in the Washington University NF Center.
In the afternoon session, we will be hearing talks from Dr. David Gutmann, Dr. Angela Hirbe, and Dr. Courtney Dunn, and Mrs. Nicole Weckherlin.

David H. Gutmann, MD, PhD

David H. Gutmann, MD, PhD

David Gutmann, MD, PhD received his undergraduate, graduate (PhD), and medical (MD) degrees from the University of Michigan, where he trained in immunogenetics in the laboratory of Dr. John Niederhuber. During his residency in Neurology at the University of Pennsylvania, he had the good fortune of working with Dr. Kenneth Fischbeck who sparked his interest in neurogenetics. He then returned to the University of Michigan for research fellowship training in Human Genetics with Dr. Francis Collins. During this time, he identified the neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) protein and began to elucidate its function as a RAS regulator. In late 1993, he was recruited to Washington University, becoming a full professor in 2001 and the Donald O. Schnuck Family Professor in 2002. He established the St. Louis Children’s Hospital Neurofibromatosis Clinical Program in 1994 and the Washington University Neurofibromatosis Center in 2004. His research laboratory is currently focused on understanding the genomic, molecular and cellular basis for nervous system problems affecting children and adults with NF1 using both human biospecimens and novel genetically-engineered mouse strains.
In this regard, over the past 20 years, his team has developed numerous mouse models of NF1-associated optic glioma, somatic growth defects, attention deficit, autism, plexiform neurofibroma, and spatial learning impairments as well as NF2-associated meningioma. Dr. Gutmann and his colleagues have used these preclinical models to define the cellular origins of tumors, the contribution of the tumor microenvironment, and the major growth control pathways that dictate brain development in NF. He has published 380 peer-reviewed manuscripts, and has been recognized for his achievements with numerous awards, including the 2012 Children’s Tumor Foundation Frederich von Recklinghausen Award, the 2013 Washington University Distinguished Faculty Research Award, and the 2014 Riley Church Lectureship. In 2015, Dr. Gutmann was appointed to the NIH Advisory Council for the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
Dr. Gutmann will speak about the use of mouse models to understand why optic gliomas form in children with NF1 and how we can leverage these findings to identify personalized treatments for these common pediatric brain tumors.
Angela Hirbe, MD, PhD received her undergraduate, medical (MD), and graduate (PhD) degrees from Washington University. She began her research career as a high school student in the laboratory of Dr. David Gutmann studying the NF1 and NF2 tumor suppressor genes. For her graduate research, she worked with Dr. Katherine Weilbaecher to define the role of the bone microenvironment in promoting cancer metastasis. She completed her residency and oncology training at Washington University/Barnes-Jewish Hospital, returning to Dr. Gutmann’s laboratory to employ advanced genomic methods and generate new mouse models to understand why malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors (MPNSTs) develop and metastasize. Dr. Hirbe will join the faculty in Medical Oncology this year, where she will specialize in the treatment of individuals with MPNST.
Dr. Hirbe will speak about the use of genomic strategies and mouse models to define the molecular events critical for MPNST development and progression in adults with NF1 and how we can leverage these findings to identify more effective treatments for these deadly cancers.
Courtney Dunn, PT/DPT graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor’s degree in physical therapy and then completed her Doctorate of Physical Therapy with an emphasis in pediatrics. Dr. Dunn provides physical therapy services and resources for children with NF1, including outpatient therapy, school-based services and community-based services. Courtney has researched motor delays in children with NF1, and based on her findings, established Club NF, a play-based therapy program for children with NF1. In addition, with our partners at Jazz St. Louis, she has designed a jazz music motor therapy program for toddlers with NF1.
Nicole Weckherlin, OT/OTRL received her BS in Occupational Therapy from St. Louis University. She is a licensed and registered occupational therapist currently working in the Cerebral Palsy and Neurofibromatosis Clinical Programs at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. Based on her success using iPad Apps to address delays in children with NF1, Nicole has launched an Apps Therapy Program at St. Louis Children’s Hospital.
Dr. Dunn and Mrs. Weckherlin will speak about these one-of-a-kind programs developed as complementary care platforms for children affected with NF1.
To learn more about the event and register to attend, visit the NF Center Research Symposium event page.