Lisa Peterson, PhD

Co-Leader, Carcinogenesis and Chemoprevention Program
Lisa Peterson

United States

Administrative support contact for Dr. Peterson: Bob Carlson
Dr. Lisa Peterson is a Professor in the Division of Environmental Health Sciences in the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. She received her BA in chemistry at Macalester College, St. Paul, MN and a PhD in Pharmaceutical Chemistry at the University of California, San Francisco. After post-doctoral studies at Vanderbilt University in the Center in Molecular Toxicology, she joined the Division of Chemical Carcinogenesis at the American Health Foundation in Valhalla, NY. In 1997, Lisa moved to the University of Minnesota. Her research focuses on mechanisms by which chemicals initiate cancer.


BA, Chemistry, Macalester College
PhD, Pharmaceutical Chemistry, University of California, San Francisco


Awards & Recognitions

  • Member, Delta Omega Honorary Society in Public Health Faculty
  • Achievement Award in Environmental Health, Division of Environmental Health Sciences, University of Minnesota School of Public Health, 2005
  • American Chemical Society Fellow, 2013
  • Macalester College Alumni Service Award, 2016

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Research Summary/Interests

My research focuses on mechanisms by which tobacco smoke chemicals initiate cancer. Organic, biological and analytical chemical methods are employed to study this problem. One of my research interests is exploring the mechanisms by which nitrosamines exert their tissue-specific carcinogenic effects. These studies indicate that DNA repair plays a critical role in the overall activity of the tobacco-specific nitrosamine, 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone (NNK) as a lung specific carcinogen. Another topic of interest to me is how individuals differ in their ability to repair DNA damage caused by NNK and other tobacco carcinogens. In addition, I am investigating how other tobacco smoke chemicals influence the carcinogenic properties of NNK and other tobacco carcinogens in established rodent tumor models. I also study how furan induces liver tumors in laboratory animals. Sources of human exposure include processed food, tobacco smoke and air pollution. The specific events involved in tumor induction by this carcinogen are unknown. A key step in this process is the biochemical conversion of furan to reactive metabolites that chemically modify a variety of cellular molecules such as proteins and polyamines. I am interested in connecting these reactions to the toxic and carcinogenic properties of furan. Recently, my research team demonstrated that furan metabolites are present in human urine and are elevated in smokers. Future studies will determine if furan contributes to the harmful effects of tobacco smoke in humans.