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Alan Ashworth, PhD, FRS

Alan Ashworth, PhD, FRS

UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center
University of California
San Francisco, California

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, AACR
2016 Drexel Prize in Cancer Biology, Drexel University College of Medicine
2015 Genetics Society Medal, The Genetics Society, London, United Kingdom
2015 Spirit of Empowerment Award, Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered (FORCE)
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
2010 AACR Distinguished Achievement Award in Breast Cancer Research
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)
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