Tamara Terzian, PhD
Assistant Professor, Dermatology

Graduate School :
  • PhD, Université Claude Bernard (Lyon I) (2001)
Languages: English, French, Armenian, Arabic
Department: Dermatology

Professional Titles

  • Chair of Personnel and Benefits at Faculty Council
  • Secretary of Faculty Council
  • Secretary of Colorado Melanoma Foundation

Recognition & Awards

  • Distinguished Service Award, University of Colorado Faculty Council (2019)

Research Interests

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. Wild type p53 has been identified by us and others as an important player in development and a master regulator of pigmentation. We are currently exploiting the photo-protective abilities of p53 in skin cancer prevention and treating pigmentary disorders like vitiligo. My lab is exploring three main research areas: 1) p53 and tumorigenesis: My lab is examining the role of p53 mutations in driving tumorigenesis to improve cancer therapy using mouse models of cancer. We are particularly interested in unveiling mechanisms that initiate and promote skin cancers such as squamous cell carcinomas and melanoma. 2) p53 and development: Our mouse models that express elevated p53 levels exhibit developmental abnormalities principally lymphatic defects. Characterizing these mice phenotypically and molecularly will identify key factors contributing to the pathogenesis of associated diseases. In addition, we are examining the potential of certain drugs in treating the devastating disease of lymphedema. 3) p53 and pigmentation: We are investigating the activation of the p53 pathway in skin stem cells to treat pigmentary disorders such as vitiligo and giant congenital nevi. We have identified a drug that targets the p53 pathway and that may promote melanocyte proliferation and repigmentation of depigmented vitiligo skin. We are analyzing the mode of action of this drug in preparation for clinical trials.


  • Director of the Genetics Block- Foundations in Biomedical Sciences (2021)
    Graduate School,
    Genetic Models of Cancer, Functional Genetics, Tumor suppressors and Oncogenes.
  • Co-director of the Gates Summer Internship Program (2020)
    School of Medicine, Dermatology
    Teaching undergraduate and graduate, career development, curriculum and program design, admissions


  • Filipp FV, Birlea S, Bosenberg MW, Brash D, Cassidy PB, Chen S, D'Orazio JA, Fujita M, Goh BK, Herlyn M, Indra AK, Larue L, Leachman SA, Le Poole C, Liu-Smith F, Manga P, Montoliu L, Norris DA, Shellman Y, Smalley KSM, Spritz RA, Sturm RA, Swetter SM, Terzian T, Wakamatsu K, Weber JS, Box NF. Frontiers in pigment cell and melanoma research. Pigment Cell Melanoma Res. 2018 Nov;31(6):728-735. PubMed PMID: 30281213
  • Joselow A, Lynn D, Terzian T, Box NF. Senescence-Like Phenotypes in Human Nevi. Methods Mol Biol. 2017;1534:175-184. PubMed PMID: 27812879
  • Barón AE, Asdigian NL, Gonzalez V, Aalborg J, Terzian T, Stiegmann RA, Torchia EC, Berwick M, Dellavalle RP, Morelli JG, Mokrohisky ST, Crane LA, Box NF. Interactions between ultraviolet light and MC1R and OCA2 variants are determinants of childhood nevus and freckle phenotypes. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2014 Dec;23(12):2829-39. PubMed PMID: 25410285
  • Box NF, Vukmer TO, Terzian T. Targeting p53 in melanoma. Pigment Cell Melanoma Res. 2014 Jan;27(1):8-10. PubMed PMID: 24118922
  • Zeron-Medina J, Wang X, Repapi E, Campbell MR, Su D, Castro-Giner F, Davies B, Peterse EF, Sacilotto N, Walker GJ, Terzian T, Tomlinson IP, Box NF, Meinshausen N, De Val S, Bell DA, Bond GL. A polymorphic p53 response element in KIT ligand influences cancer risk and has undergone natural selection. Cell. 2013 Oct 10;155(2):410-22. PubMed PMID: 24120139

Professional Memberships

  • American Academy for Cancer Research (AACR), Member
  • Society of Investigative Dermatology, Member
  • Colorado Melanoma Foundation, Secretary
  • Colorado Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute (CCTSI), Member
  • Colorado BioScience Association, Member
  • University of Colorado Cancer Center, Member
  • University of Colorado Center for Neuroscience, Member
Personal Interests
I love gardening, going for long walks and reading. Music and art are my way to relax and savor the surrounding beauty and life. Advocacy for the right of access to health and education and a healthy work environment is also a major interest.

Volunteer Activities
I heavily volunteer for educational activities and raising skin cancer awareness. I am greatly engaged in the activities of our homegrown Colorado Melanoma Foundation that is doing amazing work servicing all Coloradans by connecting dermatologists to communities in remote areas of Colorado.

Public Speaking
Topics of public speaking include: Career Development for undergraduates, Empowerment of Women, Faculty and Staff Advocacy, Sun Safety and Skin Cancer Prevention, Promotion of Cancer and Lymphatic Research.

General Information

Graduate Schools:
  • PhD, Université Claude Bernard (Lyon I) (2001)
Languages: English, French, Armenian, Arabic
Department: Dermatology
Contact Us
CU Anschutz
Fitzsimons Building

13001 East 17th Place
Campus Box C290
Aurora, CO 80045

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