Alan Ashworth, PhD, FRS

Alan Ashworth, PhD, FRS
UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center; University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, California

Alan Ashworth, PhD, FRS | Class of 2018

​A globally recognized leader in cancer research, Dr. Ashworth is renowned for his instrumental contributions to the identification and therapeutic exploitation of cancer susceptibility genes, specifically the BRCA2 gene, now commonly used to identify and stratify individuals at increased risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer. His studies have highlighted the role of genetic biomarkers in informing cancer susceptibility and prevention efforts, while also demonstrating the importance of DNA damage and repair in the progression and treatment of cancer.

Specifically, Dr. Ashworth’s research has contributed greatly to the development of PARP (Poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase) inhibitors as targeted therapies. He demonstrated that cancer cells harboring BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations exhibit unique sensitivity to PARP inhibition and that PARP inhibition is sufficient to induce cell death by resulting in an overabundance of DNA breaks that are unable to be repaired. These studies have helped establish the concept of synthetic lethality clinically and have been crucial to the development of various PARP inhibitors now approved for the treatment of various cancers including niraparib, olaparib, and rucaparib.

Dr. Ashworth’s commitment to the development of precision cancer medicine is exemplified by his role in helping establish the Center for BRCA Research, which provides personalized treatment care and plans for individuals harboring BRCA and other mutations, and the San Francisco Cancer Initiative (SF CAN). The latter is a public-private collaborative effort involving all stakeholders dedicated to reducing cancer health and treatment disparities within the city of San Francisco, California. This pioneering initiative represents the first comprehensive cancer plan for a major city and seeks to serve as a model for other cities to address their cancer burden.

Career Highlights

​2017  Brinker Award for Scientific Distinction in Basic Science, Susan G. Komen®
2016-2019  Board of Directors, American Association for Cancer Research, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
2016  Drexel Prize in Cancer Biology, Drexel University College of Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
2015  Genetics Society Medal, The Genetics Society, London, United Kingdom
2015  Spirit of Empowerment Award, Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered (FORCE), Tampa, Florida
2013  Inaugural Basser Global Prize, The Basser Center for BRCA, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
2012  Goudie Medal, Pathological Society of Great Britain and Ireland, London, United Kingdom
2010  Distinguished Lectureship in Breast Cancer Research, American Association for Cancer Research, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
2010  Meyenburg Prize, Meyenburg Foundation, Heidelberg, Germany
2010  David Workman Memorial Award, Samuel Waxman Cancer Research Foundation, New York, New York
2009  Elected Fellow, European Academy of Cancer Sciences
2009  Lifetime Achievement Award, European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO), Lugano, Switzerland
2008  Elected Fellow, The Royal Society, London, United Kingdom
2002  Elected Fellow, Academy of Medical Sciences, London, United Kingdom
1999  Elected Member, European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO), Heidelberg, Germany