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Robert L. Judson-Torres

Robert L. Judson-Torres, PhD

Languages spoken: English

Academic Information

Departments Primary - Dermatology , Adjunct - Oncological Sciences

Academic Office Information

Academic Bio: Dr. Robert Judson-Torres received his Ph.D. from the University of California, San Francisco in Biomedical Sciences in 2012 for his discovery and mechanistic dissection of microRNAs that mediate somatic cell reprogramming. He was subsequently awarded the NIH Director’s Early Independence Award. He initiated an independent research program as a Sandler Fellow in the UCSF Program for Breakthrough Biomedical Research.

From 2014-2019, Dr. Judson-Torres headed his research group at the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center. He pioneered the use of CRISPR/Cas9 engineering in primary human melanocytes as a model system for melanoma initiation and focused on identifying the transcriptional programs that precede tumorigenesis. In 2019, he joined the faculty of the Department of Dermatology and the Huntsman Cancer Institute of the University of Utah.

Research: Dr. Judson-Torres’ research program seeks to understand the dynamic transcriptional programs regulating human melanocytes and how disruptions to these programs permit or drive the early stages of melanoma development. Melanoma is a skin cancer that is curable if detected early, but frequently fatal if left unchecked. Melanomas are derived from melanocytes that have acquired specific genetic mutations. However, the majority of melanocytes that acquire these exact mutations do not progress to melanoma. Both the intrinsic transcriptional and epigenetic programs as well as the external environmental and chemical factors that govern the probability of transformation are poorly understood. His laboratory studies diverse populations of primary human melanocytes and melanoma cell lines using single cell sequencing, live quantitative phase imaging, and CRISPR/Cas9-based precision engineering. Translational aspects of his work include the identification of transcriptional programs as potential biomarkers for early melanoma diagnosis and the discovery of administered compounds that alter the probability of transformation.

Teaching: Dr. Judson-Torres serves as a mentor for students at many levels of education, from high school through post-doctoral and clinical fellows and residents. In addition to training students in molecular, cell and translational research, he is also particularly interested in career development for graduate students and post-doctoral fellows. Dr. Judson-Torres is an avid believer that well-trained scientists should be professionally serving our communities in all aspects of organization, government, planning and education, in addition to academic and industrial research.

Service: Dr. Judson-Torres has served as a member and instructor for multiple career development workshops and programs, and is a member of the University of Utah Academic Senate Special Committee focused on updating the policies, rights and benefits of post-doctoral scholars. He serves on the HCI cancer education committee where he helps to spearhead the Huntsman Cancer Institute Postdoc Showcase. He has organized multiple international symposia focused on expanding and standardizing practices in digital holographic cytometry. He serves on the council of the Pan-American Society for Pigment Cell Research where he chairs the Membership and Outreach committee.

Education History

Fellowship University of California, San Francisco
University of California, San Francisco
Fellowship National Institutes of Health
Postbaccalaureate Research Fellow
Wesleyan University

Selected Publications

Journal Article

  1. Parkman GL, Turapov T, Kircher DA, Burnett WJ, Stehn CM, OToole K, Culver KM, Chadwick AT, Elmer RC, Flaherty R, Stanley KA, Foth M, Lum DH, Judson-Torres RL, Friend JE, VanBrocklin MW, McMahon M, Holmen SL (2023). Genetic silencing of AKT induces melanoma cell death via mTOR suppression. Mol Cancer Ther. (Read full article)
  2. Scherzer MT, Deacon DC, Judson-Torres RL (2023). Perilesional Epigenomes Distinguish Melanocytic Nevus Subtypes. J Invest Dermatol, 143(9), 1631-1633. (Read full article)
  3. Moustafa TE, Polanco ER, Belote RL, Judson-Torres RL, Zangle TA (2023). Fabrication and validation of an LED array microscope for multimodal, quantitative imaging. HardwareX, 13, e00399. (Read full article)
  4. McNeal AS, Belote RL, Zeng H, Urquijo M, Barker K, Torres R, Curtin M, Shain AH, Andtbacka RH, Holmen S, Lum DH, McCalmont TH, VanBrocklin MW, Grossman D, Wei ML, Lang UE, Judson-Torres RL (2021). BRAFV600E induces reversible mitotic arrest in human melanocytes via microrna-mediated suppression of AURKB. Elife, 10. (Read full article)
  5. Lange D, Polanco E, Judson-Torres RL, Zangle T, Lex A (2021). Loon: Using Exemplars to Visualize Large-Scale Microscopy Data. IEEE Trans Vis Comput Graph.
  6. Belote RL, Le D, Maynard A, Lang UE, Sinclair A, Lohman BK, Planells-Palop V, Baskin L, Tward AD, Darmanis S, Judson-Torres RL (2021). Human melanocyte development and melanoma dedifferentiation at single-cell resolution. Nat Cell Biol, 23(9), 1035-1047. (Read full article)
  7. Tang J, Fewings E, Chang D, Zeng H, Liu S, Jorapur A, Belote RL, McNeal AS, Tan TM, Yeh I, Arron ST, Judson-Torres RL, Bastian BC, Shain AH (2020). The genomic landscapes of individual melanocytes from human skin. Nature, 586(7830), 600-605. (Read full article)
  8. Lang UE, Torres R, Cheung C, Vladar EK, McCalmont TH, Kim J, Judson-Torres RL (2020). Ciliation Index Is a Useful Diagnostic Tool in Challenging Spitzoid Melanocytic Neoplasms. J Invest Dermatol, 140(7), 1401-1409.e2. (Read full article)
  9. Torres R, Lang UE, Hejna M, Shelton SJ, Joseph NM, Shain AH, Yeh I, Wei ML, Oldham MC, Bastian BC, Judson-Torres RL (2019). MicroRNA Ratios Distinguish Melanomas from Nevi. J Invest Dermatol, 140(1), 164-173.e7. (Read full article)
  10. Torres R, Judson-Torres RL (2019). Research Techniques Made Simple: Feature Selection for Biomarker Discovery. J Invest Dermatol, 139(10), 2068-2074.e1. (Read full article)
  11. Shain AH, Joseph N, Yu R, Benhamida J, Ruben B, North J, Yeh I, Judson RL, Bastian BC (2018). Genomic and transcriptomic analysis reveals incremental disruption of key signaling pathways during melanoma evolution. Cancer Cell, 34(1), 45-55.
  12. Zeng H, Jorapur A, Shain AH, Lang UE, Torres R, Zhang Y, McNeal AS, Botton T, Lin J, Donne M, Bastian IN, Yu R, North JP, Pincus L, Ruben BS, Joseph NM, Yeh I, Bastian BC, Judson RL (2018). Bi-allelic Loss of CDKN2A Initiates Melanoma Invasion via BRN2 Activation. Cancer Cell, 34(1), 56-68.e9. (Read full article)
  13. Hejna M, Jorapur A, Song JS, Judson RL (2017). High accuracy label-free classification of single-cell kinetic states from holographic cytometry of human melanoma cells. Sci Rep, 7(1), 11943. (Read full article)
  14. Judson RL, Greve TS, Parchem RJ, Blelloch R (2013). MicroRNA-based discovery of barriers to dedifferentiation of fibroblasts to pluripotent stem cells. Nat Struct Mol Biol, 20(10), 1227-35. (Read full article)
  15. Swarbrick A, Woods SL, Shaw A, Balakrishnan A, Phua Y, Nguyen A, Chanthery Y, Lim L, Ashton LJ, Judson RL, Huskey N, Blelloch R, Haber M, Norris MD, Lengyel P, Hackett CS, Preiss T, Chetcuti A, Sullivan CS, Marcusson EG, Weiss W, LEtoile N, Goga A (2010). miR-380-5p represses p53 to control cellular survival and is associated with poor outcome in MYCN-amplified neuroblastoma. Nat Med, 16(10), 1134-40. (Read full article)
  16. Melton C, Judson RL, Blelloch R (2010). Opposing microRNA families regulate self-renewal in mouse embryonic stem cells. Nature, 463(7281), 621-6. (Read full article)
  17. Judson RL, Babiarz JE, Venere M, Blelloch R (2009). Embryonic stem cell-specific microRNAs promote induced pluripotency. Nat Biotechnol, 27(5), 459-61. (Read full article)


  1. Ma Y, Xia R, Ma X, Judson-Torres RL, Zeng H (2021). Mucosal Melanoma: Pathological Evolution, Pathway Dependency and Targeted Therapy. [Review]. Front Oncol, 11, 702287. (Read full article)
  2. Deacon DC, Smith EA, Judson-Torres RL (2021). Molecular Biomarkers for Melanoma Screening, Diagnosis and Prognosis: Current State and Future Prospects. [Review]. Front Med (Lausanne), 8, 642380. (Read full article)
  3. Zeng H, Judson-Torres RL, Shain AH (2019). The Evolution of Melanoma - Moving beyond Binary Models of Genetic Progression. [Review]. J Invest Dermatol, 140(2), 291-297. (Read full article)
  4. Greve TS, Judson RL, Blelloch R (2013). microRNA control of mouse and human pluripotent stem cell behavior. [Review]. Annu Rev Cell Dev Biol, 29, 213-239. (Read full article)