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Your Environment. Your Health.

Inorganic Toxicology Group

Michael Waalkes, Ph.D.
Mike Waalkes, Ph.D.
Group Leader
Tel (919) 541-2328
111 T W Alexander Dr
Rall Building
Research Triangle Park, NC 27709

Delivery Instructions

Research Summary

The mission of our group is to characterize toxic responses to carcinogenic inorganics so we can elucidate mechanisms, particularly with regard to developmental basis of cancer in adulthood. A major focus is on arsenic with a smaller cadmium project.


Inorganic carcinogens are major human hazards that impact millions of people world-wide and characterizing their mechanisms is key to defining risk and designing methods for intervention. Generally, cell models were used to define mechanisms in recently established or suspected human targets. The focus with both arsenic and cadmium has become their impact on stem cells as a mechanism of carcinogenic action. The group also works on NTP Laboratory mission related projects that either involve metals or stem cells or other areas as required.


Major areas of research:

  • Developmental outcomes of arsenic or cadmium exposure
  • Determining the effect of arsenic and cadmium on stem cells
  • Developing models of inorganic carcinogensis
  • Role of hematopoietic stem cells in dissemination of cancer


Current projects:

  • Further development of our mouse whole life exposure carcinogenesis model
  • Malignant transformation of various target relevant cell populations with arsenic or cadmium
  • Isolation and study of cancer stem cells after arsenic or cadmium transformation
  • Role of oxidative DNA damage and arsenic methylation in arsenic-induced transformation
  • Role of hematopoietic stem cells in dissemination of cancer
  • Signaling of malignant epithelia to convert normal stem cells to cancer stem cells
  • Dissolution of indium from particulates by macrophages


Michael P. Waalkes. Ph.D., is a research toxicologist with the National Toxicology Program. He received his Ph.D. in 1981 in Pharmacology and Toxicology from West Virginia University, where he studied the perinatal toxicology of cadmium. He was a Postdoctoral Fellow at University of Kansas School of Medicine from 1981 to 1983 where his studies focused on the cellular and molecular mechanisms of acquired tolerance to metal toxicity. In 1983 he joined the National Cancer Institute (NCI), where he became Chief of the Inorganic Carcinogenesis Section which was part of the Laboratory of Comparative Carcinogenesis, NCI. From 1983 to 1996 he was located at the Frederick Cancer Research Center in Frederick, Maryland. In 1996 he and his section were detailed to Research Triangle Park to become NCI at the NIEHS where he was stationed until early 2010 when he joined the Division of the National Toxicology Program at NIEHS to head up the Division's new NTP Laboratory.


Waalkes current research involves defining the developmental basis of adulthood cancer primarily using the carcinogenic inorganics, including arsenic and cadmium, as model compounds. A major recent research thrust has been defining the role of stem cells in chemical carcinogenesis, with emphasis on early life exposure and inorganics as agents. Waalkes also directs eclectic research in the NTP Laboratory as required for the division.


Waalkes received the Society of Toxicology Achievement Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Science of Toxicology by an Individual 41 Years of Age or Younger in 1990. In 2000 he received the National Institutes of Health Merit Award for exemplary service as a member of the NIEHS, NTP Committee for the Report on Carcinogens. In 2007, Waalkes was awarded the Career Achievement Award for outstanding work in metals toxicology through the Society of Toxicology. He is currently an adjunct Professor of Molecular Toxicology at Duke University, was a long-time adjunct Professor of Toxicology at the University of Maryland when stationed in Frederick. Waalkes was the Editor-in-Chief of Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology, a leading journal in mechanistic toxicology, from 2000 to 2009 and serves on the Editorial Boards of Toxicology, Chemical Research in Toxicology, Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, and Toxicology Mechanisms and Methods.


He has served on various review committees including those involving the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the National Science Foundation, various study sections, and the Report on Carcinogens. He is an active member of the Society of Toxicology (SOT) and is currently a senior Councilor. He also serves as Stem Cells Specialty Section President and has served on the Program Committee, the Board of Publications, the Committee on Public Communications, the Education Committee, and as Metals Specialty Section President and President of the North Carolina Regional Chapter. He has chaired numerous symposia and continuing education courses involving metals toxicology as the SOT annual meetings. Dr. Waalkes is author or co-author of over 350 publications.

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