Department of Medicinal Chemistry

Robert Turesky, B.Sc., Ph.D.

COP3 - Image - 180x222 Robert Turesky
    Medicinal Chemistry/ Masonic Cancer Center
  • Ph.D., Nutrition and Food Science
    Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1986)
  • B.Sc., Biochemistry
    University of Massachusetts (1978)
  • Metabolism
  • Food-borne carcinogens
  • Biomarkers
  • DNA and protein adducts
  • Analytical chemistry
  • Mass spectrometry
  • Masonic Cancer Center
    2-149 CCRB
    2231 6th St SE
    Minneapolis, MN 55414
  • Masonic Cancer Research Ctr
    1st Floor Mailroom CCRB
    2812A (Campus Delivery Code)
    2231 6th St SE
    Minneapolis, MN 55455

About Robert Turesky, B.Sc., Ph.D.

My research is focused on biochemical mechanisms by which hazardous chemicals undergo metabolism and bioactivation to form protein and DNA adducts, which are implicated in toxicity and the onset of cancer. Our long-term objective is to implement chemical markers of these genotoxicants for employment in molecular epidemiology studies that seek to understand the origin of human cancer for which an environmental cause is suspected.


Heterocyclic aromatic amines. Heterocyclic aromatic amines (HAAs) are carcinogens formed in cooked meat and tobacco smoke. The chemistry of HAA adduct formation with DNA and blood proteins is under study, to develop biomarkers for study in human cohorts. Our goal is to see if differences in dietary habits or metabolic processing of HAAs and their ensuing DNA adducts, can be employed to better understand susceptibilities to cancer risk posed by these ubiquitous genotoxicants.

Aristolochic acids. A long-sought analytical method employing archived biopsy samples fixed in formalin and paraffin embedded (FFPE tissues) was established for measuring DNA damage, by mass spectrometric methods, of cancer patients exposed to aristolochic acid, a potent urothelial carcinogen present in some traditional Chinese medicines. This approach allows us to retrospectively screen DNA damage in FFPE tissues for which there is a clinical diagnosis of cancer. We are exploring the versatility of this method by examination of FFPE samples for DNA adducts associated with hazardous chemicals in cigarette smoke, cooked meats, and air pollution.

DNA adductomics. Novel scanning approaches, by ion trap mass spectrometry, are under development to screen human biospecimens for a variety of DNA lesions of carcinogens present in the diet and environment. These screening methods are expected to provide us with a better understanding of the major chemicals in the environment that damage DNA and may lead to the onset of cancer.

Urinary DNA adduct biomarkers. The DNA from exfoliated urinary cells are under study to identify DNA adducts that may help to explain the origin or urinary tract cancers.


2000: Appointed as Senior Biological Research Scientist, United States Food and Drug Administration.

2002: Division Director’s Award, National Center for Toxicological Research, US FDA, for scientific excellence in research and management.

2004: Elected to Senior Health Research Services Advisory Board, Wadsworth Center, NYS Dept. of Health

2001: Plaque award for participation of mentorship in the Burnt Hills – Balston Lake High School Science Research Program.


1978 B.Sc., Magna cum laude, in Biochemistry, University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

1998 Chosen as Distinguished Foreign Scientist, Cover Issue, “Novel aromatic amine mutagens, unintentionally formed from azo dyes, in river water in Kyoto” Japanese Journal of Cancer Research, 1998 Sep;89(9): Inside front cover. PubMed [citation] PMID: 9818020



Published Works

1. Yun BH, Yao L, Jelaković B, Nikolić J, Dickman KG, Grollman AP, Rosenquist TA, Turesky RJ. Formalin-Fixed Paraffin Embedded Tissue as a Source for Quantitation of Carcinogen DNA Adducts: Aristolochic Acid as a Prototype Carcinogen. Carcinogenesis..35 no.9 pp.2055–2061, 2014 PubMed PMID: 24776219.

2. Peng L, Turesky RJ. Optimizing proteolytic digestion conditions for the analysis of serum albumin adducts of 2-amino-1-methyl-6-phenylimidazo[4,5-b]pyridine, a potential human carcinogen formed in cooked meat. J Proteomics. 2014 May 30;103:267-78. doi: 10.1016/j.jprot.2014.03.023. Epub 2014 Mar 31. PubMed PMID: 24698664.

3. Balbo S, Turesky RJ, Villalta PW. DNA adductomics. Chem Res Toxicol. 2014 Mar 17;27(3):356-66. doi: 10.1021/tx4004352. Epub 2014 Feb 25. PubMed PMID: 24437709;PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3997222.

4. Hoang ML, Chen CH, Sidorenko VS, He J, Dickman KG, Yun BH, Moriya M, Niknafs N, Douville C, Karchin R, Turesky RJ, Pu YS, Vogelstein B, Papadopoulos N, Grollman AP, Kinzler KW, Rosenquist TA. Mutational signature of aristolochic acid exposure as revealed by whole-exome sequencing. Sci Transl Med. 2013 Aug 7;5(197):197ra102. doi: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3006200. PubMed PMID: 2392620

5. Nauwelaërs G, Bellamri M, Fessard V, Turesky RJ, Langouët S. DNA adducts of the tobacco carcinogens 2-amino-9H-pyrido[2,3-b]indole and 4-aminobiphenyl are formed at environmental exposure levels and persist in human hepatocytes. Chem Res Toxicol. 2013 Sep 16;26(9):1367-77. doi: 10.1021/tx4002226. Epub 2013 Aug 16. PubMed PMID: 23898916.

6. Yun BH, Rosenquist TA, Nikolić J, Dragičević D, Tomić K, Jelaković B, Dickman KG, Grollman AP, Turesky RJ. Human formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tissues: anuntapped specimen for biomonitoring of carcinogen DNA adducts by massspectrometry. Anal Chem. 2013 May 7;85(9):4251-8. doi: 10.1021/ac400612x. Epub2013 Apr 10. PubMed PMID: 23550627.

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  • Last modified on December 10, 2014