Joann Sweasy, PhD

Director, University of Arizona Cancer Center
Nancy C. and Craig M. Berge Endowed Chair

University of Arizona Health Sciences

Joann Sweasy, PhD, is the director of the University of Arizona Cancer Center.

She also is a tenured professor at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson in the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine.

Dr. Sweasy is an internationally recognized expert in the genetics, cell biology and biochemistry of DNA repair. For the past 25 years her laboratory has been consistently funded by the National Cancer Institute to study the molecular basis of mutagenesis and dysfunctional DNA repair as they relate to human diseases including cancer and autoimmunity. Dr. Sweasy’s research team recently discovered that dynamic conformational changes are important for accurate DNA synthesis. The team also has shown that human germline and somatic genetic variants of base excision repair genes are linked to carcinogenesis because they are unable to properly remove damaged DNA bases, leading to genomic instability, mitotic catastrophe, and other cancer-associated phenotypes.

Dr. Sweasy earned her doctoral degree from Rutgers University, studying the role of the RecA protein in the SOS response to DNA damage, under the direction of Dr. Evelyn M. Witkin. She initiated her research on the fidelity of DNA synthesis at the University of Washington in Dr. Lawrence Loeb’s laboratory. After joining Yale University School of Medicine in 1993, she rose through the ranks to become the Ensign Professor of Therapeutic Radiology and associate director for basic sciences at the Yale Cancer Center.