Rochester, Minnesota




The research of Michael S. Torbenson, M.D., focuses on improving diagnosis and treatment of liver and biliary cancers. His goals are to develop and validate new pathology entities using high-quality data, DNA, plasma, serum, and liver and biliary cancer tissue biospecimens and xenografts from patients with hepatobiliary cancer. His laboratory was the first to describe CpG islands in the hepatitis B virus (HBV) genome and demonstrate viral gene regulation by methylation of viral DNA.

Dr. Torbenson has authored more than 250 papers, in which he has described several new pathology entities as well as several new tumor subtypes. He has also authored numerous book chapters and five books on liver pathology, including a book on liver biopsy interpretation, a book on tumors of the liver and a comprehensive liver pathology textbook. He is an author of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology Atlas of Tumor Pathology fascicle, and author of the hepatocellular carcinoma chapters for the past two editions of the World Health Organization Blue Books on gastrointestinal and liver tumors. Dr. Torbenson also has a long-standing interest in archaeology and the history of medicine.

Focus areas

  • Liver and gastrointestinal disease
  • Liver biopsy interpretation
  • Viral hepatitis (including significance of occult HBV infections, HBsAg-negative infections, and HBV-DNA-positive infections)
  • Steatohepatitis
  • Hemochromatosis
  • Hepatic adenomas
  • Hepatocellular carcinoma
  • Fibrolamellar carcinoma
  • Cholangiocarcinoma
  • Clinicopathological studies

Significance to patient care

To address an urgent need to improve the diagnosis and treatment of liver and bile duct cancers, Dr. Torbenson's research contributes to a better understanding of cellular mechanisms and metabolic functions involved in these diseases.

Further insight into tumor types can help in the development of specific treatments targeted at the growth-signaling pathways that are most critical for an individual patient's cancer. This individualized or personalized medicine approach allows more-effective treatment of cancer with minimal side effects.

By inhibiting tumor growth and metastasis, pathogenic infection, receptor signaling, and growth cascades, Dr. Torbenson's work may improve overall survival and quality of life for patients.

Professional highlights

  • President, Roger C. Haggit Gastrointestinal Pathology Society, 2019-2020
  • President, Hans Popper Hepatopathology Society, 2016-2018


Primary Appointment

  1. Consultant, Division of Anatomic Pathology, Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology

Academic Rank

  1. Professor of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology


  1. Fellow - GI Pathology The Johns Hopkins Hospital
  2. Fellow - Liver/Transplant University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
  3. Resident - Pathology University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
  4. MD University of Chicago
  5. BS University of Minnesota Duluth

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