Alan Ashworth is President of the Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center at University of California, San Francisco and Senior Vice President for clinical services, UCSF Health. Ashworth was a key member of the team that discovered the BRCA2 gene in 1995, which is linked to an increased risk of breast, ovarian and other cancers. In 2005, his lab identified a way to exploit genetic weaknesses (using synthetic lethality) in cancer cells with mutated BRCA1 or 2 genes, leading to a new approach to cancer treatment, PARP inhibition. Four different PARP inhibitors have now been approved by the FDA for the treatment of ovarian, breast, pancreatic and prostate cancer based on this observation, which was named by Nature in the top 20 discoveries in cancer in the 21st century. He continues to develop new treatments for cancer using genetic principles.
He has received a number of awards and prizes many of which recognize the innovative and translational nature of his work as well as its clinical impact. He is an elected member of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) and a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences, the American Association of Arts and Sciences, the American Association of Cancer Research and the Royal Society (equivalent to membership of the National Academy of Sciences). Prizes include the European Society of Medical Oncology (ESMO) Lifetime Achievement Award, the David T. Workman Memorial Award of the Samuel Waxman Cancer Research Foundation, the Meyenburg Foundation’s Cancer Research Award, the Genetics Society Medal, the inaugural winner of the Basser Global Prize, and the Susan G Komen Brinker award. He is the scientific co-founder of Tango Therapeutics.