Alan Ashworth, PhD, FRS

Alan Ashworth, PhD, FRS

President, UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center
Senior Vice President for Cancer Services, UCSF Health
Professor of Medicine, Division of Hematology/Oncology, Department of Medicine

E. Dixon Heise Distinguished Professor in Oncology, UCSF

Phone: (415) 476-5876
Box 0128, UCSF

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Cancer Center Membership

Program Member » Breast Oncology» Cancer Genetics

Research Summary

I am the Director of the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center (HDFCCC), a multidisciplinary research and clinical care organization that is one of the largest cancer centers in the Western United States. I also serve as Senior Vice President for Cancer Services, UCSF Health.

Following my education and postdoctoral fellowships, in 1999, I was appointed the first Director of the Breakthrough Breast Cancer Research Centre at the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR). The Centre is now recognized as one of the leading Breast Cancer Centre’s 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. My directorship ended in January 2011 when I was appointed Chief Executive of the ICR. I undertook this role until July 2014, at which time I was named incoming Director of the HDFCCC.

I was a key part of the team that in 1995 discovered the gene BRCA2, which is linked to an increased risk of some types of cancers. Ten years later, I identified a way to exploit genetic weaknesses in cancer cells including mutated BRCA2, leading to a new approach to cancer treatment. This approach is now being tested in numerous clinical trials.

My current research reflects my passion for the development of personalized cancer medicine, translating laboratory studies into improvements in patient care. I am also joint leader, 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 (


1978 – 1981, BSc (Hons), Chemistry and Biochemistry, Imperial College of Science and Technology, University of London
1981 – 1984, PhD, Biochemistry, University College London
1986 – 1988, Postdoctoral Fellow, The Institute of Cancer Research
1984 – 1986, Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Biochemistry, University College London

Professional Experience

  • 2014 - present
    Director, Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, and Professor of Medicine, Division of Hematology/Oncology, Department of Medicine, UCSF
  • 2011 – 2014
    Chief Executive Officer, The Institute of Cancer Research
  • 1999 – 2011
    Director, Breakthrough Breast Cancer Research Centre
  • 1997 – 2014
    Professor of Molecular Biology, The Institute of Cancer Research
  • 1988 – present
    Team Leader, Gene Function, The Institute of Cancer Research

Honors & Awards

  • 2015
    Genetics Society Medal
  • 2015
    Spirit of Empowerment Award, Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered (FORCE)
  • 2013
    Basser Global Prize
  • 2012
    Scientist in Residence - University Duisberg-Essen/Essener Sparkasse
  • 2012
    Pathological Society of Great Britain and Ireland’s Goudie Medal
  • 2010
    AACR Distinguished Lectureship in Breast Cancer, San Antonio
  • 2010
    Meyenburg Foundation Cancer Research Award
  • 2010
    Samuel Waxman Cancer Research Foundation David Workman Memorial Award
  • 2009
    Elected Fellow of the European Academy of Cancer Sciences
  • 2009
    ESMO Lifetime Achievement Award
  • 2008
    Elected Fellow of the Royal Society
  • 2002
    Elected Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences
  • 1999
    Elected to EMBO
  • 1991
    British Postgraduate Medical Federation Prize

Selected Publications

  1. Schoemaker MJ, Jones ME, Wright LB, Griffin J, McFadden E, Ashworth A, Swerdlow AJ. Psychological stress, adverse life events and breast cancer incidence: a cohort investigation in 106,000 women in the United Kingdom. Breast Cancer Res. 2016; 18(1):72.
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  2. Miller RE, Brough R, Bajrami I, Williamson CT, McDade S, Campbell J, Kigozi A, Rafiq R, Pemberton H, Natrajan R, Joel J, Astley H, Mahoney C, Moore JD, Torrance C, Gordan JD, Webber JT, Levin RS, Shokat KM, Bandyopadhyay S, Lord CJ, Ashworth A. Synthetic Lethal Targeting of ARID1A-Mutant Ovarian Clear Cell Tumors with Dasatinib. Mol Cancer Ther. 2016 Jul; 15(7):1472-84.
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  3. Dhawan M, Ryan CJ, Ashworth A. DNA Repair Deficiency Is Common in Advanced Prostate Cancer: New Therapeutic Opportunities. Oncologist. 2016 Aug; 21(8):940-5.
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  4. Beck D, Zobel J, Barber R, Evans S, Lezina L, Allchin RL, Blades M, Elliott R, Lord CJ, Ashworth A, Porter AC, Wagner SD. Synthetic Lethal Screen Demonstrates That a JAK2 Inhibitor Suppresses a BCL6-dependent IL10RA/JAK2/STAT3 Pathway in High Grade B-cell Lymphoma. J Biol Chem. 2016 Aug 5; 291(32):16686-98.
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  5. Rajan N, Andersson MK, Sinclair N, Fehr A, Hodgson K, Lord CJ, Kazakov DV, Vanecek T, Ashworth A, Stenman G. Overexpression of MYB drives proliferation of CYLD-defective cylindroma cells. J Pathol. 2016 Jun; 239(2):197-205.
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  6. Johnson N, De Ieso P, Migliorini G, Orr N, Broderick P, Catovsky D, Matakidou A, Eisen T, Goldsmith C, Dudbridge F, Peto J, Dos-Santos-Silva I, Ashworth A, Ross G, Houlston RS, Fletcher O. Cytochrome P450 Allele CYP3A7*1C Associates with Adverse Outcomes in Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia, Breast, and Lung Cancer. Cancer Res. 2016 Mar 15; 76(6):1485-93.
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  7. Campbell J, Ryan CJ, Brough R, Bajrami I, Pemberton HN, Chong IY, Costa-Cabral S, Frankum J, Gulati A, Holme H, Miller R, Postel-Vinay S, Rafiq R, Wei W, Williamson CT, Quigley DA, Tym J, Al-Lazikani B, Fenton T, Natrajan R, Strauss SJ, Ashworth A, Lord CJ. Large-Scale Profiling of Kinase Dependencies in Cancer Cell Lines. Cell Rep. 2016 Mar 15; 14(10):2490-501.
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  8. Costa-Cabral S, Brough R, Konde A, Aarts M, Campbell J, Marinari E, Riffell J, Bardelli A, Torrance C, Lord CJ, Ashworth A. CDK1 Is a Synthetic Lethal Target for KRAS Mutant Tumours. PLoS One. 2016; 11(2):e0149099.
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  9. Lord CJ, Ashworth A. BRCAness revisited. Nat Rev Cancer. 2016 Feb; 16(2):110-20.
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  10. Mateo J, Carreira S, Sandhu S, Miranda S, Mossop H, Perez-Lopez R, Nava Rodrigues D, Robinson D, Omlin A, Tunariu N, Boysen G, Porta N, Flohr P, Gillman A, Figueiredo I, Paulding C, Seed G, Jain S, Ralph C, Protheroe A, Hussain S, Jones R, Elliott T, McGovern U, Bianchini D, Goodall J, Zafeiriou Z, Williamson CT, Ferraldeschi R, Riisnaes R, Ebbs B, Fowler G, Roda D, Yuan W, Wu YM, Cao X, Brough R, Pemberton H, A'Hern R, Swain A, Kunju LP, Eeles R, Attard G, Lord CJ, Ashworth A, Rubin MA, Knudsen KE, Feng FY, Chinnaiyan AM, Hall E, de Bono JS. DNA-Repair Defects and Olaparib in Metastatic Prostate Cancer. N Engl J Med. 2015 Oct 29; 373(18):1697-708.
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  11. Biswas S, Wood M, Joshi A, Bown N, Strain L, Martinsson T, Campbell J, Ashworth A, Swain A. Exome Sequencing of an Adult Pituitary Atypical Teratoid Rhabdoid Tumor. Front Oncol. 2015; 5:236.
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  12. Kwon YJ, Petrie K, Leibovitch BA, Zeng L, Mezei M, Howell L, Gil V, Christova R, Bansal N, Yang S, Sharma R, Ariztia EV, Frankum J, Brough R, Sbirkov Y, Ashworth A, Lord CJ, Zelent A, Farias E, Zhou MM, Waxman S. Selective Inhibition of SIN3 Corepressor with Avermectins as a Novel Therapeutic Strategy in Triple-Negative Breast Cancer. Mol Cancer Ther. 2015 Aug; 14(8):1824-36.
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  13. Krogan NJ, Lippman S, Agard DA, Ashworth A, Ideker T. The cancer cell map initiative: defining the hallmark networks of cancer. Mol Cell. 2015 May 21; 58(4):690-8.
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  14. Carnevale J, Ashworth A. Assessing the Significance of BRCA1 and BRCA2 Mutations in Pancreatic Cancer. J Clin Oncol. 2015 Oct 1; 33(28):3080-1.
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  15. Lemnrau A, Brook MN, Fletcher O, Coulson P, Tomczyk K, Jones M, Ashworth A, Swerdlow A, Orr N, Garcia-Closas M. Mitochondrial DNA Copy Number in Peripheral Blood Cells and Risk of Developing Breast Cancer. Cancer Res. 2015 Jul 15; 75(14):2844-50.
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  16. Conti A, Majorini MT, Elliott R, Ashworth A, Lord CJ, Cancelliere C, Bardelli A, Seneci P, Walczak H, Delia D, Lecis D. Oncogenic KRAS sensitizes premalignant, but not malignant cells, to Noxa-dependent apoptosis through the activation of the MEK/ERK pathway. Oncotarget. 2015 May 10; 6(13):10994-1008.
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  17. Frankum J, Moudry P, Brough R, Hodny Z, Ashworth A, Bartek J, Lord CJ. Complementary genetic screens identify the E3 ubiquitin ligase CBLC, as a modifier of PARP inhibitor sensitivity. Oncotarget. 2015 May 10; 6(13):10746-58.
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  18. No clinical utility of KRAS variant rs61764370 for ovarian or breast cancer. Gynecol Oncol. 2016 May; 141(2):386-401.
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  19. Francis JC, Melchor L, Campbell J, Kendrick H, Wei W, Armisen-Garrido J, Assiotis I, Chen L, Kozarewa I, Fenwick K, Swain A, Smalley MJ, Lord CJ, Ashworth A. Whole-exome DNA sequence analysis of Brca2- and Trp53-deficient mouse mammary gland tumours. J Pathol. 2015 Jun; 236(2):186-200.
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  20. Watkins J, Weekes D, Shah V, Gazinska P, Joshi S, Sidhu B, Gillett C, Pinder S, Vanoli F, Jasin M, Mayrhofer M, Isaksson A, Cheang MC, Mirza H, Frankum J, Lord CJ, Ashworth A, Vinayak S, Ford JM, Telli ML, Grigoriadis A, Tutt AN. Genomic Complexity Profiling Reveals That HORMAD1 Overexpression Contributes to Homologous Recombination Deficiency in Triple-Negative Breast Cancers. Cancer Discov. 2015 May; 5(5):488-505.
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