Rochester, Minnesota


Mayo Clinic mourns the passing of Dr. Gloria Petersen. We are grateful for her many contributions to cancer research and Mayo Clinic.

The research interests and expertise of Gloria M. Petersen, Ph.D., are in the application of genetic epidemiology methods to understand cancer etiology. Her work includes genetic linkage analysis of cancer families, case-control studies for gene discovery, and genetic and environmental association studies.

Dr. Petersen has also studied the impact of disclosure of genetic research findings to study participants. Her disease research focus is pancreatic and other gastrointestinal cancers. She provides oversight to the Mayo Clinic Comprehensive Cancer Center as deputy director for population sciences and institutionally, for health disparities and community outreach research.

Focus areas

  • Early detection of pancreatic cancer. Dr. Petersen coordinates a large multi-investigator collaboration to identify biomarkers of early pancreatic cancer. Using the large prospective patient registry developed at Mayo Clinic over 15 years, Dr. Petersen and her team can now construct well-defined and extremely informative sets of samples for laboratories to validate test markers as a step toward use in the clinical setting.
  • Genetic and nongenetic risk factors of pancreatic cancer. Using cases and controls, Dr. Petersen and her colleagues examine a variety of risk factors, including family history, genetic markers, smoking, diet, environmental exposures and comorbid conditions to better understand why individuals have increased risk of pancreatic cancer. Through collaborative networks, thousands of patients, family members and controls, the genetic heterogeneity of pancreatic cancer has been characterized. Dr. Petersen is also conducting a study to understand what modifies the expression of different cancers that can result from the identical gene mutation for pancreatic cancer within families. She co-leads influential genetic studies that transform national genetic testing guidelines.
  • Bioethical issues. Dr. Petersen examines the bioethical issues involved in informing members of pancreatic cancer families of incidental genetic research findings, including after death.

Significance to patient care

Dr. Petersen's goal is to translate gene discoveries into clinical application with respect to improving risk assessment through modeling and genetic testing.

Professional highlights

  • Member, Clinical Trials and Translational Research Advisory Committee, National Cancer Institute, 2015-present
  • Principal investigator, Pancreatic Cancer Case-Control Consortium (PanC4), PanScan for genome-wide association studies, Pancreatic Cancer Detection Consortium (PCDC), 2019
  • Member, Board of Scientific Counselors, National Human Genome Research Institute, 2013-2018
  • Elected chair, Molecular Epidemiology Working Group, American Association for Cancer Research, 2010
  • Consortia leader, Pancreatic Cancer Genetic Epidemiology (PACGENE) Consortium, 2006
  • Purvis and Roberta Tabor Professor, 2005


Primary Appointment

  1. Division of Epidemiology, Department of Quantitative Health Sciences


  1. PhD - Physical Anthropology. Dissertation: Electromorph Unimodality of Serum Transferrin Variation in Cercopithecines University of California, Los Angeles
  2. MA - Physical Anthropology University of Oregon
  3. BA - Physical Anthropology University of California, Santa Barbara

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