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Tamara Terzian, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Departmental and Center Associations:


Community Affiliations: 

Secretary of the Colorado Melanoma Foundation


Research Interests:

We are looking for a post-doctoral fellow or a Senior Research Assistant to join our research team.

If interested please apply through the CU careers link below,  job #12304

Or email us directly.​


My laboratory is interested in the regulation of a key tumor suppressor, the transcription factor p53.  p53 is mutated in over 50% of human cancers and has therefore been the subject of intensive basic and preclinical investigation. In the hope of improving cancer therapies that specifically target p53 mutations, we are investigating the role of different p53 mutations in driving tumorigenesis. For this we are using novel combinations of extant mouse models of cancer, murine xenografts and sophisticated tissue culture systems.


My laboratory is also looking into targeting the p53 pathway in skin stem cells to develop novel therapies for pigmentary disorders such as vitiligo. We and others have demonstrated the central role of p53 in pigmentation. Therefore, activating p53 in a complex disease such as vitiligo promises a truly safe and effective treatment alternative to the traditionally used ultraviolet light therapy.

Selected Publications


  1. Joselow A, Lynn D, Terzian T, Box NF. Senescence-Like Phenotypes in Human Nevi. Methods Mol Biol. 2017;1534:175-184. PMID:27812879.
  2. Goh AM, Xue Y, Leushake M, Li L, Wong JS, Chiam PC, Rahmat SA, Mann MB, Mann KM, Barker N, Lozano G, Terzian T, Lane DP. (2015) Mutant p53 accumulates in cycling and proliferating cells in the normal tissues of p53 R172H mutant mice. Oncotarget, 20;6 (20):17968-80. PMID:26255629.  
  3. Shellman YG, Lambert KA, , Brauweiler A, Fain P, Spritz RA, Martini M, Janssen KP, Box NF, Terzian T, Rewers M, Horvath A, Stratakis CA, Robinson WA, Robinson SE, Norris DA, Artinger KB, Pacheco TR. (2015) SASH1 is involved in an autosomal dominant lentiginous phenotype. J Invest Dermatol, PMID: 26203640.
  4. Baron A., Asdigian N.L., Gonzalez V., Aalborg J., Terzian T., Stiegmann R.A., Torchia E., Dellavalle R.P., Mokrohisky S.T., Morelli J.G., Crane L.A. and Box N.F. (2014) Interactions between ultraviolet light and MC1R and OCA2 variants are determinants of childhood nevus and freckle phenotypes. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, 23(12):2829-39.
  5. Zeron-Medina, J., Wang, X., Repapi, E., Campbell, M.R., Su, D., Castro-Giner, F.C., Davies, B. Peterse, E.F.P., Sacilotto, N., Walker, G.J., Terzian, T., Tomlinson, I.P., Box, N.F., Meinshausen, N., De Val, S. Bell, D.A. and Bond G. (2013) A polymorphic p53 enhancer in the KIT ligand oncogene influences cancer risk and has undergone natural selection. Cell, 155(2):410-422. PMID: 24120139.                                                                                     
  6. Box NF, Vukmer TO, Terzian, T. (2014) Targeting p53 in melanoma. Pigment Cell Melanoma Res. PMID: 24118922.                                                                                           
  7. Terzian, T.**and Box N. (2013) Ribosomal proteins: Curiouser and Curiouser. PLoS Genetics. Epub 2013 Jan 31. PMID: 23382707.                                                         
  8. Terzian, T. and Lozano G. (2012) Mutant p53 driven mutagenesis. Book Chapter in “p53 in the clinic” IARC Press, Lyon, France. Editors: Pierre Hainaut and Margali Olivier.          
  9. Terzian, T., Dumble M., Arbab F., Thaller C., Donehower L.A., Lozano G., Justice M.J., Roop D.R., and Box N.F. (2011) Rpl27a mutation in the Sooty Foot Ataxia mouse phenocopies high p53 mouse models. J. Pathol. 224(4):540-552. PMID 21674502.                                       
  10. Suh Y.A., Post S.M., Elizondo-Fraire A.C., El-Naggar A.K., Terzian, T., and Lozano G. (2011) Multiple stress signals activate mutant p53 in vivo. Cancer Res. 71:7168-75. PMID: 21983037.                                                                                                             
  11. Terzian, T. and Lozano G. (2010) Building p53. Genes Dev. 24, 229-32. PMID 20952532.    
  12. Wang Y. Suh, Y., Fuller M., Jackson J.G., Xiong S.,Terzian, T., Quintás-Cardama A., Bankson J.A. El-Naggar A.K. and Lozano G. (2011) Restoring expression of wild-type p53 suppresses tumor growth but does not cause tumor regression in mice with a p53 missense mutation. J Clin Invest. 121: 893-904. PMID 21285512.                                                                    
  13. Torchia E.C., Caulin C., Acin S., Terzian, T., Kubick B.J., Box N.F., Roop D.R. (2011) Myc, Aurora Kinase-A, and mutant p53R172H co-operate in a mouse model of metastatic skin carcinoma. Oncogene. PMID: 21963848.                                                                     
  14. Walker G.J., Soyer H.P., Terzian, T. and Box N.F. (2011) Modeling melanoma in mice. Pigment Cell and Melanoma Res. PMID: 21985222. 24:1158-76.                                      
  15. Terzian, T., Torchia E.C., Daisy D., Robinson S.E., Murao K., Stiegmann R., Gonzalez V., Boyle G.M., Pollock P.M., Lozano G., Robinson W.A., Roop D.R., and Box N.F. (2010) p53 mediates its effects on melanoma tumor suppression predominantly through cell cycle control. Pigment Cell Melanoma Res. 23(6):781-94. PMID 20849464.                                           
  16. Post S.M., Quintás-Cardama A., Terzian, T., Smith C., Eischen C.M., and Lozano G. (2010) p53-dependent senescence delays Eμ-myc induced B-cell lymphomagenesis. Oncogene 29, 1260-1269. PMID 19935700.                                                                                   
  17. Valentin-Vega Y.A., Box N., Terzian, T., and Lozano G. (2009) Mdm4 loss in the intestinal epithelium leads to compartmentalized cell death but no tissue abnormalities. Differentiation 77, 442-449. PMID 19371999.                                                                              
  18. Terzian, T.*, Suh Y., Iwakuma T., Post S.M., Neumann M., Lang G., Van Pelt C. S., and Lozano, G. (2008) The inherent instability of mutant p53 is alleviated by Mdm2 or p16INK4a loss. Genes Dev. 22, 1337-1344. PMID 18483220.                                                         
  19. Box N.F. and Terzian, T. The role of p53 in pigmentation, tanning and melanoma. (2008) Pigment Cell Melanoma Res. 21(5):525-33. PMID 18761658.                                     
  20. Iwakuma T., Tochigi Y., Van Pelt C.S., Caldwell L.C., Terzian, T.,Parant J.M., Chau G.P., Koch J.G., Eischen C.M., and Lozano G. (2008) Mtbp haploinsufficiency in mice increases tumor metastasis. Oncogene, 27, 1813-1820. PMID 17906694.                                                
  21. Barboza J., Iwakuma T., Terzian, T., El-Naggar A., and Lozano G. (2008) Mdm2 and Mdm4 loss regulates distinct p53 activities. Mol. Can. Res. 6, 947-954. PMID 18567799.      
  22. Terzian, T., Wang Y., Van Pelt C. S., Box N.F., Travis E.L. and Lozano G. (2007) Haploinsufficiency of Mdm2 and Mdm4 in tumorigenesis and development. Mol. Cell. Biol. 27, 5479-5485.                                                                                                                  
  23. Liu G., Terzian, T. *, Xiong S., Van Pelt C.S., Audiffred A., Box N. and Lozano G. (2007) The p53-Mdm2 network in progenitor cell expansion during mouse postnatal development. J. Pathol. 213, 360-368.                                                                                                  
  24. Lang G.A., Iwakuma T., Suh Y., Liu G., Rao, V.A., Parant J.M., Valentin-Vega Y.A., Terzian, T., Caldwell, L.C., Strong L.C., El-Naggar A.K., and Lozano, G. (2004) Gain of function of a p53 hot spot mutation in a mouse model of Li-Fraumeni syndrome. Cell 119, 861–872. PMID 15607981. 
      * Editorial commentary in the same issue; **Corresponding author; # Cover issue.


NIH/NCI R03 (01/01/2016-12/31/2018)

Cancer League of Colorado (07/01/2016-06/30/2017)

NIH/NIAMS K01 Career Development Award (07/01/12-06/30/17)

Dermatology Foundation Research Grant  (07/01/2014- 06/31/2015​)

American Cancer Society Institutional Research Grant (IRG) (01/1/2014-01/01/2015)

Colorado Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute (CCTSI) Child and Maternal Health Grant (07/01/2014-06/30/2016)

NIH funded-University of Colorado Denver Skin Disease Research Center Pilot &Feasibility grant (07/01/12-06/30/13) 

NIH/NIAMS Training in Immunodermatology grant (07/01/2010-04/30/2012) 



Ph.D., University of Claude Bernard, Lyon I, France (Biomedical Engineering/Biochemistry), 2001
D.E.A. (Diplôme d’études approfondies), University of Claude Bernard, Lyon I, France (Biomedical Engineering/Biochemistry), 1997

Postdoctoral Training

Postdoctoral fellow,  Laboratory of Dr. Guillermina Lozano, Topic: p53 mouse models   in tumorigenesis and development.  University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX, USA,  2002-2007
Postdoctoral fellow,   Laboratory of Dr. Dennis Roop, Topic: p53 in pigmentation and melanoma.  University of Colorado Denver, Aurora, CO, USA,  2007-2011

Current Laboratory Member

Manale El-Kharbili                                                                                
Postdoctoral Fellow
Education:    Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1
                     PhD. in Integrative Molecular and Cellular Biology


Experience: I received my Bachelor’s degree in 2006 from the University of Toulouse, France. I then pursued my education at the University of Lyon I where I obtained a Master’s degree in 2008 and then a Ph.D. degree in late 2013. My thesis work uncovered the role of a novel marker, Tetraspanin8, in the early steps of cutaneous melanoma invasion for which I was awarded the Best Junior Scientist prize at the 2012 Skin Physiology International Meeting (SPIM). Afterwards, I joined as a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Z-M. Yuan’s lab at Harvard School of Public Health where I studied p53, the master guardian of the genome. To couple my passion for p53 and melanoma, I joined Dr. Terzian’s lab in 2016 as a postdoctoral fellow. I am currently conducting an ambitious and exciting project that aims to uncover the interplay between p53 and UV in melanocyte transformation and initiation of cutaneous melanoma using mouse models of p53 and melanoma and primary skin cell cultures.

Hobbies: When I’m not in the lab I enjoy working out or spending my time outside Denver in the Rockies, hiking and discovering new areas.​

Past Laboratory Members

Karina Tlaxcala Jaquez
Professional Research Assistant
Education: Regis University, Class of 2012
BS in Biochemistry with minors in Mathematics, Biology, and Spanish  

Bio: I am a Dermatology Research Assistant working alongside Drs. Tamara Terzian and Neil Box since April of 2013. My research interests include Cancer Genetics and tumor suppressor p53’s role in tumorgenesis. Specifically, I am interested in the roles and mechanisms of action of p53 and its regulators on tumor initiation and progression.  Prior to joining the lab, I interned in Dr. Dennis Roop’s lab where I expressed gain of function p53 mutants in a skin carcinoma cell line, which sparked my interest in cancer research.

I am an avid advocate of awareness and prevention; and thus, by expanding my knowledge on the matter, I have become a more resourceful, educated individual. Outside the lab, I highly enjoy cooking and exploring the wonderful outdoors that Colorado has to offer.

Molly Plehaty                                                                                 
Professional Research Assistant 
Education:    Colorado State University, Class of 2014
                      B.S. in Biochemistry with minors in Microbiology
                      and Molecular Biology


Experience: While pursuing my undergraduate degree, I worked in a molecular biology lab on projects characterizing the HIV protease autoprocessing reaction and studying the in vivo binding of an aptamer to the flavivirus NS5 capping enzyme. During my undergraduate summers, I worked with the Schizophrenia Education and Training Program at UC Denver Anschutz Medical Campus looking at rat and mouse models of schizophrenia.

In the summer of 2014, I joined Dr. Terzian’s lab as a University of Colorado Cancer Center Summer Fellow. My project focuses on the study of the regulation of mutant p53 in development and tumorigenesis by its negative regulators, Mdm4 and Mdm2.

Hobbies: When I’m not in the lab I spend my time reading books, crocheting stuffed animals, playing the tuba, and singing with the Arrhythmias, the Anschutz Medical Campus choir.

Rachel Flores                                                                                 
Student Assistant I 
Education:    Radford University, Class of 2016
                      B.S. in Sports Medicine with a minor in Biology


Experience: While pursuing my undergraduate degree, I worked in Physical Therapy facilities in both Colorado and Virginia. I have spent time working with geriatrics, pediatrics, general outpatient, and those among athletic community.  With a multitude of hours of clinical experience in my past, I wanted to pursue laboratory work, and an understanding of physiological processes on a molecular level.

I joined Dr. Terzian’s lab in the Summer of 2016 with this goal. New to lab experience, I have spent much of my time learning basic techniques, and understanding our focus of study: p53. Currently I am exploring p53’s role in tumorigenesis and development.

Hobbies: When I’m not in the lab, I enjoy working out with my fiancé Jeff and playing with our two dogs: Hunter and Boone.