Alan Ashworth

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Alan Ashworth
Born 1960 (age 54–55)
Bolton, Lancashire
Nationality British
Alma mater
Thesis Cloning and characterization of cDNAs derived from cytochrome P-450 mRNAs (1984)
Doctoral students Elizabeth Iorns[citation needed]

Alan Ashworth, FRS (born 1960 in Bolton, Lancashire) is a British molecular biologist, noted for his work on genes involved in cancer susceptibility. He is currently the President of the Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of California, San Francisco, a multidisciplinary research and clinical care organization that is one of the largest cancer centers in the Western United States.[1] He was previously CEO of the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) in London.[2]

Early life[edit]

Ashworth was educated at St Mary's Primary School and Thornleigh Salesian College, Bolton. He completed his Bachelor of Science in Chemistry and Biochemistry at Imperial College, London, and was awarded a PhD in Biochemistry at University College, London.[3]


Ashworth joined the ICR in 1986 as a Postdoctoral research Scientist in the Section of Cell and Molecular Biology and in 1999 he was appointed the first Director of the Breakthrough Breast Cancer Research Centre (BBCRC).[4] The Centre is now recognized internationally and has more than 120 scientists and researchers working on aspects of the disease ranging from basic molecular and cellular biology through to translational research and clinical trials.[4] Ashworth's Directorship ended in January 2011 when he took up the position of Chief Executive of the ICR which he held until December 2014.[5]

One of Ashworth's major contributions to cancer research has been his work on genes involved in cancer risk. He was a key part of the team that in 1995 discovered the BRCA2 gene,[6][7][8][9] which is linked to an increased risk of some types of cancers [10]/ which is now used to identify women at high risk of the disease. Ten years later, Ashworth identified a way to exploit genetic weaknesses in cancer cells including mutated BRCA 1 or BRCA2, leading to a new approach to cancer treatment. Cancer cells that carry mutant forms of BRCA1 or BRCA2 are highly sensitive to a class of drugs known as Poly ADP ribose polymerase (PARP) inhibitors. Early results from clinical trials of PARP inhibitors are considered to be important and promising.[11][12]

Ashworth's research and leadership reflects his passion for translating laboratory studies into improvements in patient care, particularly by the development of personalised cancer medicine.[13] At ICR he was also joint leader,[14] with Professor Tony Swerdlow, of one of the world's most comprehensive and largest (>100,000 participants), studies of breast cancer causation, the Breakthrough Generations Study ([15]

In 2014, Ashworth stepped down as Director of the ICR to join the University of California, San Francisco as President of the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center (HDFCCC) and Senior Vice President of Cancer Services of UCSF Health from January 2015.[16] He also serves as Professor of Medicine, Division of Hematology/Oncology, Department of Medicine and holds the E. Dixon Heise Distinguished Professorship in Oncology.[17]

Awards and recognition[edit]


  1. ^ "Research profiles: Professor Alan Ashworth FRS". UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center. 
  2. ^ "Management structure". The Institute of Cancer Research. Archived from the original on 10 June 2011. Retrieved 12 June 2011. 
  3. ^
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  6. ^ Roth, S; Kristo, P; Auranen, A; Shayehgi, M; Seal, S; Collins, N; Barfoot, R; Rahman, N; Klemi, P. J.; Grénman, S; Sarantaus, L; Nevanlinna, H; Butzow, R; Ashworth, A; Stratton, M. R.; Aaltonen, L. A. (1998). "A missense mutation in the BRCA2 gene in three siblings with ovarian cancer". British journal of cancer 77 (8): 1199–202. PMC 2150153. PMID 9579822. 
  7. ^ Connor, F; Smith, A; Wooster, R; Stratton, M; Dixon, A; Campbell, E; Tait, T. M.; Freeman, T; Ashworth, A (1997). "Cloning, chromosomal mapping and expression pattern of the mouse Brca2 gene". Human molecular genetics 6 (2): 291–300. doi:10.1093/hmg/6.2.291. PMID 9063750. 
  8. ^ Bignell, G; Micklem, G; Stratton, M. R.; Ashworth, A; Wooster, R (1997). "The BRC repeats are conserved in mammalian BRCA2 proteins". Human molecular genetics 6 (1): 53–8. PMID 9002670. 
  9. ^ Lancaster, J. M.; Wooster, R; Mangion, J; Phelan, C. M.; Cochran, C; Gumbs, C; Seal, S; Barfoot, R; Collins, N; Bignell, G; Patel, S; Hamoudi, R; Larsson, C; Wiseman, R. W.; Berchuck, A; Iglehart, J. D.; Marks, J. R.; Ashworth, A; Stratton, M. R.; Futreal, P. A. (1996). "BRCA2 mutations in primary breast and ovarian cancers". Nature Genetics 13 (2): 238–40. doi:10.1038/ng0696-238. PMID 8640235. 
  10. ^ Wooster, R.; Bignell, G.; Lancaster, J.; Swift, S.; Seal, S.; Mangion, J.; Collins, N.; Gregory, S.; Gumbs, C.; Micklem, G.; Barfoot, R.; Hamoudi, R.; Patel, S.; Rices, C.; Biggs, P.; Hashim, Y.; Smith, A.; Connor, F.; Arason, A.; Gudmundsson, J.; Ficenec, D.; Kelsell, D.; Tonin, P.; Timothy Bishop, D.; Spurr, N. K.; Ponder, B. A. J.; Eeles, R.; Peto, J.; Devilee, P.; Cornelisse, C. (1995). "Identification of the breast cancer susceptibility gene BRCA2". Nature 378 (6559): 789–792. doi:10.1038/378789a0. PMID 8524414. 
  11. ^ Cressey, D (2010). "Translational research: Talking up translation: Alan Ashworth took a cancer drug from Petri dish to patients in near record speed". Nature 463 (7280): 422–3. doi:10.1038/463422a. PMID 20110964. 
  12. ^ Wooster, R.; Neuhausen, S.; Mangion, J.; Quirk, Y.; Ford, D.; Collins, N.; Nguyen, K.; Seal, S.; Tran, T.; Averill, D.; Et, A. (1994). "Localization of a breast cancer susceptibility gene, BRCA2, to chromosome 13q12-13". Science 265 (5181): 2088–2090. doi:10.1126/science.8091231. PMID 8091231. 
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  16. ^ "Acclaimed British Scientist Alan Ashworth Is Named Director of the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center". University of California, San Francisco. Archived from the original on 2015-04-02. 
  17. ^
  18. ^ "Find an EMBO member (searchable database of members)". EMBO. Archived from the original on 22 July 2011. Retrieved 12 June 2011. 
  19. ^ "Fellows: Professor Alan Ashworth FRS FMedSci". The Academy of Medical Science. Retrieved 12 June 2011. 
  20. ^ "New Fellows 08 Agarwal - Cohen - New Fellows 2008 - The Royal Society". The Royal Society. Retrieved 27 January 2010. 
  21. ^ "awardees". ESMO. Archived from the original on 22 July 2011. Retrieved 12 June 2011. 
  22. ^ "Directory of Fellows". European Academy of Cancer Sciences. 
  23. ^ "Press release: Alan Ashworth To Receive Award for His Breakthrough Work in Breast Cancer". Samuel Waxman Cancer Research Foundation. 
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External links[edit]