Peter W Jurutka, PhD

Associate Professor, School of Mathematical & Natural Sciences, Arizona State University
Associate Professor, Basic Medical Sciences, University of Arizona, College of Medicine Phoenix
Email Address: 
Phone Number: 
(602) 543-6087
Professional Bio: 

Dr. Jurutka is a molecular biologist and endocrinologist and Associate Professor at Arizona State University, as well as a founding faculty member at the University of Arizona, College of Medicine-Phoenix in a joint appointment.  His area of expertise is in nuclear receptor signaling, and he has extensive experience in the design and application of modern molecular medicine approaches to the study of the fundamental mechanism of action of steroid and nuclear receptors, including RXR and its role in the pathophysiology of endocrine-related disorders.

Dr. Jurutka provides expertise in retinoid and rexinoid physiology, gene expression, and RXR-mediated transcriptional regulation.  He has published numerous manuscripts in the area of nuclear receptor signaling, and presented this work at several national and international meetings.  He is an active member of various scientific research societies and has also received a number of honors, including the Norwich-Eaton Young Investigator Research Award, and the American Society of Bone and Mineral Research John Haddad Young Investigator Award.  He has mentored over 70 undergraduate, graduate, post-graduate, and medical students who have gone on to successful and productive careers in research and medicine. 

Dr. Jurutka received his B.S. from the University of Nevada, and a Ph.D. from the University of Arizona, both with honors. His graduate work was immediately followed by postdoctoral research at the University of Arizona, College of Medicine, where he also taught first year medical students for over ten years. In 2004 he joined the faculty at Arizona State University and in 2006 he became a founding faculty member at the University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix in a joint appointment. Dr. Jurutka is an active member of several scientific research societies and he has also received a number of honors, including the Norwich-Eaton Young Investigator Research Award for significant contribution to the field of bone and mineral research, the John Haddad Young Investigator Award, as well as teaching awards bestowed by the medical students that he helped train, and the 2011 Arizona State University Faculty Achievement Award.  He has also mentored over 100 undergraduate, graduate, and medical students who have gone on to successful and productive careers in research and medicine.

Research Information

Research Program: 
Cancer Prevention and Control
Institution: 
Arizona State University
Research Focus: 

The research in our laboratory applies modern molecular medicine approaches to the study of the fundamental mechanism of action of steroid hormones, with particular emphasis on vitamin D and its role in the potential chemoprevention of certain epithelial cancers. This vitamin, which is actually a hormone, functions by associating with the vitamin D receptor (VDR). The receptor, in turn, mediates the effects of vitamin D in various target organs such as the intestine, kidney, bone, immune cells, neural tissues, etc. by controlling the expression of certain genes. The genes that are regulated by vitamin D participate in kidney/intestinal calcium and phosphate transport, calcium homeostasis, bone/skeletal remodeling and cellular anti-proliferation/pro-differentiation.

Together with our long-time collaborator, Dr. Beth Jacobs at the Arizona Cancer Center, we have also described in published work that vitamin D may play a vital role in cellular detoxification and cancer prevention, especially in cancers of the colon. In addition, vitamin D is thought to be a potent antiproliferative/cell differentiation agent in myeloid leukemia, mammary carcinoma, as well as in skin and prostate cancer cells. Thus, while the traditional role of vitamin D is to promote a strong and healthy skeleton, there is an increasing appreciation that vitamin D is an important chemopreventive nutrient.  Our lab, in collaboration with UA Regents' Professor Dr. Mark Haussler and his laboratory, has also discovered that the vitamin D receptor can bind to other molecules besides vitamin D, including bile acids, polyunsaturated fatty acids (also known as essential or "good" fats) such as the omega-3 lipids found in fish oils, as well as curcumin, the active polyphenol found in turmeric, an ingredient in curry powder. We are evaluating the biological properties of these bioactive lipids and their relationship to the prevention of diseases such as colon cancer and osteoporosis.  We have also found that other "nutraceuticals" such as resveratrol functionally synergize with vitamin D to exert beneficial health effects.

Finally, we are also studying the gene for the vitamin D receptor. This gene comes in at least two different "varieties" or polymorphisms in the human population, and these two different forms of the receptor possess subtle differences in their biological properties which may predispose certain individuals to colon or prostate cancer or post-menopausal osteoporosis. We are continuing to study these alternate forms of the receptor to elucidate if additional diseases may be influenced by these polymorphisms.

Selected Publications: 

Professional Information

Positions and Honors: 
2013:  ASU NCIAS Outstanding Research Award
2013:  Outstanding Faculty Mentoring and Research Incentive Award
2012:  Outstanding Faculty Mentoring and Research Incentive Award
2011:  ASU Faculty Achievement Award
Other Experience and Professional Memberships/Affiliations: 
  • Endocrine Society
  • American Society for Bone and Mineral Research
  • American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
  • American Association for the Advancement of Science
  • American Chemical Society    

Academic Information

Doctorate: 
University of Arizona
Undergraduate School: 
BS, University of Nevada