University of California San Francisco
Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center
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, UCSF
E. Dixon Heise Distinguished Professor in Oncology, UCSF

Cancer Center Program Memberships

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 (http://www.breakthroughgenerations.org.uk).

Education

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

  • 2017
    Brinker Award for Scientific Distinction in Basic Science, Susan G. Komen
  • 2016
    Drexel Prize in Cancer Biology
  • 2016
    Appointed to American Association for Cancer Research Board of Directors
  • 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. Chong IY, Aronson L, Bryant H, Gulati A, Campbell J, Elliott R, Pettitt S, Wilkerson P, Lambros MB, Reis-Filho JS, Ramessur A, Davidson M, Chau I, Cunningham D, Ashworth A, Lord CJ. Mapping genetic vulnerabilities reveals BTK as a novel therapeutic target in oesophageal cancer. Gut. 2017 Aug 22.
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  2. Oliver AW, Swift S, Lord CJ, Ashworth A, Pearl LH. Structural basis for recruitment of BRCA2 by PALB2. EMBO Rep. 2017 Jul; 18(7):1264.
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  3. Dréan A, Williamson CT, Brough R, Brandsma I, Menon M, Konde A, Garcia-Murillas I, Pemberton HN, Frankum J, Rafiq R, Badham N, Campbell J, Gulati A, Turner NC, Pettitt SJ, Ashworth A, Lord CJ. Modeling Therapy Resistance in BRCA1/2-Mutant Cancers. Mol Cancer Ther. 2017 Sep; 16(9):2022-2034.
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  4. Brewer HR, Jones ME, Schoemaker MJ, Ashworth A, Swerdlow AJ. Family history and risk of breast cancer: an analysis accounting for family structure. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2017 Aug; 165(1):193-200.
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  5. Nikkilä J, Kumar R, Campbell J, Brandsma I, Pemberton HN, Wallberg F, Nagy K, Scheer I, Vertessy BG, Serebrenik AA, Monni V, Harris RS, Pettitt SJ, Ashworth A, Lord CJ. Elevated APOBEC3B expression drives a kataegic-like mutation signature and replication stress-related therapeutic vulnerabilities in p53-defective cells. Br J Cancer. 2017 Jun 27; 117(1):113-123.
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  6. Quigley D, Alumkal JJ, Wyatt AW, Kothari V, Foye A, Lloyd P, Aggarwal R, Kim W, Lu E, Schwartzman J, Beja K, Annala M, Das R, Diolaiti M, Pritchard C, Thomas G, Tomlins S, Knudsen K, Lord CJ, Ryan C, Youngren J, Beer TM, Ashworth A, Small EJ, Feng FY. Analysis of Circulating Cell-Free DNA Identifies Multiclonal Heterogeneity of BRCA2 Reversion Mutations Associated with Resistance to PARP Inhibitors. Cancer Discov. 2017 Sep; 7(9):999-1005.
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  7. Lord CJ, Ashworth A. PARP inhibitors: Synthetic lethality in the clinic. Science. 2017 03 17; 355(6330):1152-1158.
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  8. Pfister SX, Ashworth A. Marked for death: targeting epigenetic changes in cancer. Nat Rev Drug Discov. 2017 Apr; 16(4):241-263.
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  9. Pettitt SJ, Krastev DB, Pemberton HN, Fontebasso Y, Frankum J, Rehman FL, Brough R, Song F, Bajrami I, Rafiq R, Wallberg F, Kozarewa I, Fenwick K, Armisen-Garrido J, Swain A, Gulati A, Campbell J, Ashworth A, Lord CJ. Genome-wide barcoded transposon screen for cancer drug sensitivity in haploid mouse embryonic stem cells. Sci Data. 2017 Mar 01; 4:170020.
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  10. Schoemaker MJ, Jones ME, Allen S, Hoare J, Ashworth A, Dowsett M, Swerdlow AJ. Childhood body size and pubertal timing in relation to adult mammographic density phenotype. Breast Cancer Res. 2017 Feb 07; 19(1):13.
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  11. Williamson CT, Miller R, Pemberton HN, Jones SE, Campbell J, Konde A, Badham N, Rafiq R, Brough R, Gulati A, Ryan CJ, Francis J, Vermulen PB, Reynolds AR, Reaper PM, Pollard JR, Ashworth A, Lord CJ. ATR inhibitors as a synthetic lethal therapy for tumours deficient in ARID1A. Nat Commun. 2016 Dec 13; 7:13837.
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  12. Dréan A, Lord CJ, Ashworth A. PARP inhibitor combination therapy. Crit Rev Oncol Hematol. 2016 Dec; 108:73-85.
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  13. Southey MC, Goldgar DE, Winqvist R, Pylkäs K, Couch F, Tischkowitz M, Foulkes WD, Dennis J, Michailidou K, van Rensburg EJ, Heikkinen T, Nevanlinna H, Hopper JL, Dörk T, Claes KB, Reis-Filho J, Teo ZL, Radice P, Catucci I, Peterlongo P, Tsimiklis H, Odefrey FA, Dowty JG, Schmidt MK, Broeks A, Hogervorst FB, Verhoef S, Carpenter J, Clarke C, Scott RJ, Fasching PA, Haeberle L, Ekici AB, Beckmann MW, Peto J, Dos-Santos-Silva I, Fletcher O, Johnson N, Bolla MK, Sawyer EJ, Tomlinson I, Kerin MJ, Miller N, Marme F, Burwinkel B, Yang R, Guénel P, Truong T, Menegaux F, Sanchez M, Bojesen S, Nielsen SF, Flyger H, Benitez J, Zamora MP, Perez JI, Menéndez P, Anton-Culver H, Neuhausen S, Ziogas A, Clarke CA, Brenner H, Arndt V, Stegmaier C, Brauch H, Brüning T, Ko YD, Muranen TA, Aittomäki K, Blomqvist C, Bogdanova NV, Antonenkova NN, Lindblom A, Margolin S, Mannermaa A, Kataja V, Kosma VM, Hartikainen JM, Spurdle AB, Investigators K, Wauters E, Smeets D, Beuselinck B, Floris G, Chang-Claude J, Rudolph A, Seibold P, Flesch-Janys D, Olson JE, Vachon C, Pankratz VS, McLean C, Haiman CA, Henderson BE, Schumacher F, Le Marchand L, Kristensen V, Alnæs GG, Zheng W, Hunter DJ, Lindstrom S, Hankinson SE, Kraft P, Andrulis I, Knight JA, Glendon G, Mulligan AM, Jukkola-Vuorinen A, Grip M, Kauppila S, Devilee P, Tollenaar RA, Seynaeve C, Hollestelle A, Garcia-Closas M, Figueroa J, Chanock SJ, Lissowska J, Czene K, Darabi H, Eriksson M, Eccles DM, Rafiq S, Tapper WJ, Gerty SM, Hooning MJ, Martens JW, Collée JM, Tilanus-Linthorst M, Hall P, Li J, Brand JS, Humphreys K, Cox A, Reed MW, Luccarini C, Baynes C, Dunning AM, Hamann U, Torres D, Ulmer HU, Rüdiger T, Jakubowska A, Lubinski J, Jaworska K, Durda K, Slager S, Toland AE, Ambrosone CB, Yannoukakos D, Swerdlow A, Ashworth A, Orr N, Jones M, González-Neira A, Pita G, Alonso MR, Álvarez N, Herrero D, Tessier DC, Vincent D, Bacot F, Simard J, Dumont M, Soucy P, Eeles R, Muir K, Wiklund F, Gronberg H, Schleutker J, Nordestgaard BG, Weischer M, Travis RC, Neal D, Donovan JL, Hamdy FC, Khaw KT, Stanford JL, Blot WJ, Thibodeau S, Schaid DJ, Kelley JL, Maier C, Kibel AS, Cybulski C, Cannon-Albright L, Butterbach K, Park J, Kaneva R, Batra J, Teixeira MR, Kote-Jarai Z, Olama AA, Benlloch S, Renner SP, Hartmann A, Hein A, Ruebner M, Lambrechts D, Van Nieuwenhuysen E, Vergote I, Lambretchs S, Doherty JA, Rossing MA, Nickels S, Eilber U, Wang-Gohrke S, Odunsi K, Sucheston-Campbell LE, Friel G, Lurie G, Killeen JL, Wilkens LR, Goodman MT, Runnebaum I, Hillemanns PA, Pelttari LM, Butzow R, Modugno F, Edwards RP, Ness RB, Moysich KB, du Bois A, Heitz F, Harter P, Kommoss S, Karlan BY, Walsh C, Lester J, Jensen A, Kjaer SK, Høgdall E, Peissel B, Bonanni B, Bernard L, Goode EL, Fridley BL, Vierkant RA, Cunningham JM, Larson MC, Fogarty ZC, Kalli KR, Liang D, Lu KH, Hildebrandt MA, Wu X, Levine DA, Dao F, Bisogna M, Berchuck A, Iversen ES, Marks JR, Akushevich L, Cramer DW, Schildkraut J, Terry KL, Poole EM, Stampfer M, Tworoger SS, Bandera EV, Orlow I, Olson SH, Bjorge L, Salvesen HB, van Altena AM, Aben KK, Kiemeney LA, Massuger LF, Pejovic T, Bean Y, Brooks-Wilson A, Kelemen LE, Cook LS, Le ND, Górski B, Gronwald J, Menkiszak J, Høgdall CK, Lundvall L, Nedergaard L, Engelholm SA, Dicks E, Tyrer J, Campbell I, McNeish I, Paul J, Siddiqui N, Glasspool R, Whittemore AS, Rothstein JH, McGuire V, Sieh W, Cai H, Shu XO, Teten RT, Sutphen R, McLaughlin JR, Narod SA, Phelan CM, Monteiro AN, Fenstermacher D, Lin HY, Permuth JB, Sellers TA, Chen YA, Tsai YY, Chen Z, Gentry-Maharaj A, Gayther SA, Ramus SJ, Menon U, Wu AH, Pearce CL, Van Den Berg D, Pike MC, Dansonka-Mieszkowska A, Plisiecka-Halasa J, Moes-Sosnowska J, Kupryjanczyk J, Pharoah PD, Song H, Winship I, Chenevix-Trench G, Giles GG, Tavtigian SV, Easton DF, Milne RL. PALB2, CHEK2 and ATM rare variants and cancer risk: data from COGS. J Med Genet. 2016 Dec; 53(12):800-811.
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  14. Jones ME, Schoemaker MJ, Wright L, McFadden E, Griffin J, Thomas D, Hemming J, Wright K, Ashworth A, Swerdlow AJ. Menopausal hormone therapy and breast cancer: what is the true size of the increased risk? Br J Cancer. 2016 Aug 23; 115(5):607-15.
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  15. 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 Jul 15; 18(1):72.
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  16. 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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  17. 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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  18. 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 05; 291(32):16686-98.
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  19. 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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  20. Costa-Cabral S, Brough R, Konde A, Aarts M, Campbell J, Marinari E, Riffell J, Bardelli A, Torrance C, Lord CJ, Ashworth A. Correction: CDK1 Is a Synthetic Lethal Target for KRAS Mutant Tumours. PLoS One. 2016; 11(4):e0154007.
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