Joann Sweasy, PhD

Joann Sweasy, PhD

Director, Cancer Center

Nancy C. and Craig M. Berge Endowed Chair for the Director of the Cancer Center

Cancer Biology Program, Research Member



Joann B. 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. Dr. Sweasy is the Director of the University of Arizona Cancer Center, holds the Nancy C. and Craig M. Berge Endowed Chair and is a tenured professor in 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 has also 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. The Sweasy laboratory also discovered that aberrant DNA repair leads to the development of lupus. Her current focus in this area is the identification and characterization of germline DNA repair variants that are enriched in individuals with lupus. Dr. Sweasy has significant skills in and commitment to training the next generation of biomedical scientists. Dr. Sweasy is especially proud of being presented with the 2017 Yale Postdoctoral Mentoring Award. Over 50% of her trainees are women and include individuals from diverse backgrounds. Several of Dr. Sweasy’ s projects are collaborative in nature and as the lead P.I., she has successfully directed the studies, ensuring scientific rigor and the use of unbiased methodology, resulting in the publication of several high-quality papers in peer-reviewed journals.