Joy Mitchell Grodnick, left, and Arlene Mitchell congratulate Natalie Gassman, Ph.D., who was awarded the Mayer Mitchell Award for Excellence in Cancer Research at USA Health Mitchell Cancer Institute on Dec. 3, 2019.
The $10,000 award is presented annually to a promising scientist at USA Health Mitchell Cancer Institute upon the recommendation of a faculty committee. The award was established in 2009 by University of South Alabama Trustee Arlene Mitchell in memory of her late husband, Mayer Mitchell, a Mobile businessman, longtime USA trustee and formative figure in the establishment of MCI.
Gassman, an assistant professor of physiology and cell biology at the USA College of Medicine and a cancer researcher at MCI, focuses her work on characterizing the influence that environmental exposures have on DNA repair and characterizing how DNA repair proteins are altered or modified in the context of cancer.
Gassman has also developed a versatile detection method that helps identify deficiencies in repair mechanisms that give cancer cells a survival edge. She hopes that the results can be applied in a clinical setting to tailor therapies for cancer patients.
“Our team is trying to find the magic formula – how much DNA damage you have and how you will respond to treatment,” she said. “It’s personalized medicine for your genome.”
Rodney Rocconi, M.D., interim director at MCI, praised Gassman’s research and leadership. “She has taken a leading role in transforming cancer research at MCI,” Rocconi said. “She is on a sharp upward trajectory and is a large part of the cancer research momentum here.”
Since joining MCI in July 2015, Gassman has submitted more than 20 scientific articles that have been accepted for publication.
Prior to joining MCI, she held post-doctorate positions at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the Wake Forest University School of Medicine. Gassman earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Michigan State University and a doctoral degree in physical chemistry from the University of California at Los Angeles.