Lisa Peterson, PhD

Professor, Division of Environmental Health Sciences
Lisa Peterson Headshot


Office Phone
Office Address

2-126 Cancer and Cardiovascular Center
Minneapolis, MN 55455
United States


Professor, Division of Environmental Health Sciences
Program Co-Leader, Carcinogenesis and Chemoprevention, Masonic Cancer Center (MCC)


PhD, Pharmaceutical Chemistry, University of California, 1985

BS, Chemistry, Macalester College, 1981

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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.


Environment & exposures, toxicology, tobacco, cancer, gene-environment interaction, DNA damage, DNA repair, metabolism, biomarkers

Awards & Recognition

  • 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

Research Interests

  • Carcinogenesis
  • Chemical toxicology
  • DNA repair
  • Furan
  • Gene-environment interactions
  • Nitrosamines
  • Ne-environment interactions
  • Nitrosamines


  • PubH 6160, Systems Toxicology
  • PubH 6181, Current Literature in Toxicology
  • PubH 6180, Advanced Toxicology


See a full list of publications on PubMed

1.Murphy, S. E.; Park, S. L.; Balbo, S.; Haiman, C. A.; Hatsukami, D. K.; Patel, Y.; Peterson, L. A.; Stepanov, I.; Stram, D. O.; Tretyakova, N.; Hecht, S. S.; Le Marchand, L. Tobacco biomarkers and genetic/epigenetic analysis to investigate ethnic/racial differences in lung cancer risk among smokers. NPJ Precis. Oncol. 2018, 2, 17.

2.Peterson, L. A. Context Matters: Contribution of specific DNA adducts to the genotoxic properties of the tobacco-specific nitrosamine NNK. Chem. Res. Toxicol. 2017, 30, 420-433.

3.Peterson, L. A.; Hecht, S. S. Tobacco, e-cigarettes, and child health. Curr. Opin. Pediatr. 2017, 29, 225-230.

4.Narayanapillai, S. C.; Balbo, S.; Leitzman, P.; Grill, A. E.; Upadhyaya, P.; Shaik, A. A.; Zhou, B.; O'Sullivan, M. G.; Peterson, L. A.; Lu, J.; Hecht, S. S.; Xing, C. Dihydromethysticin from kava blocks tobacco carcinogen 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone-induced lung tumorigenesis and differentially reduces DNA damage in A/J mice. Carcinogenesis 2014, 35, 2365-2372.

5.Gates, L. A.; Phillips, M. B.; Matter, B. A.; Peterson, L. A. Comparative metabolism of furan in rodent and human cryopreserved hepatocytes. Drug Metab. Dispos. 2014, 42, 1132-1136.


  • 2014–2019, NIH NCI, "Interactions between tobacco smoke constituents in rodent tumor models," Principal Investigator
  • 2016–2017, "Exposure Services for ECHO," Co-Principal Investigator
  • 2015–2019, NIH NIEHS National Institute of the Environment, Minnesota CHEAR Exposure Assessment Hub," Co-Principal Investigator
  • 2016–2021, NIH National Cancer Institute, "Mechanisms of Ethnic/Racial Differences in Lung Cancer Due to Cigarette Smoking," Co-Investigator