Silvia Balbo, PhD

Co-Leader, Carcinogenesis and Chemoprevention Program
Silvia Balbo

United States

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Dr. Balbo studies the interaction of DNA and chemicals to investigate how lifestyle and environment exposures cause disease. Her work focuses on the development of mass spectrometry-based methods for the identification and quantification of DNA addition products (called adducts) in animals and humans. 


MS, Medicinal Chemistry, University of Torino
PhD, Medical Chemistry/Genetic Toxicology, University of Torino

Awards & Recognitions

  • Delta Omega Honorary Public Health Society
  • 2007 ECNIS - European Network of Excellence on Cancer and Nutrition travel award
  • 2015 Pi Chapter of the Delta Omega honorary Public Health Society
  • 2016 ISSNAF Hogan Lovells Award for research in Medicine, Biosciences and cognitive science Italian Embassy, Washington D.C. October 18, 2016
  • 2019 American Chemical Society, Chemical Research in Toxicology Young Investigator award.
  • 2020 CGHSR (Center for Global Health & Social Responsibility) Faculty Mentor Award

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Research Summary/Interests

My research focuses on using high-resolution mass spectrometry-based approaches to characterize chemical carcinogenesis. I aim to develop methods to understand how environmental exposures lead to genotoxic effects and potentially to mutations and elucidate the sequence of events and mechanisms at the base of the carcinogenic process. 

I have a broad background in medicinal chemistry and genetic toxicology and experience in measuring DNA adducts in various sample types, including cells, tissues from animal models, and biological specimens from epidemiological and clinical studies. During my post-doctoral work at IARC and at the Masonic Cancer Center of the University of Minnesota, I obtained specific training and expertise in key research areas focusing on biomarkers discovery and development. As a postdoctoral fellow at IARC, I started investigating the use of N2-ethyl-dG as a marker of alcohol genotoxicity in samples from large cohorts and observed an association between this adduct and the amounts of alcohol consumed. At the Masonic Cancer Center, I expanded my research to investigate other exposures and other DNA adducts and to develop new mass spectrometry methods to characterize DNA damage. This work includes the development of an untargeted DNA adductomic approach combining the ability to screen for multiple DNA adducts simultaneously while also discovering DNA adducts previously unknown. By integrating this approach with focused metabolomics methods to investigate genotoxic metabolites and characterize the carcinogenic potential of exposures, I have established an innovative strategy to support the development of biomarkers. These markers are important tools to understand mechanisms of human carcinogenesis, measure exposures’ biological effective doses and effects in risk assessment, and help identify populations at risk.