Alan Ashworth

New cancer center director Ashworth says a cure is around the corner

Graduate Division

Renowned breast cancer researcher Alan Ashworth arrived at UCSF last month to take over as director of the Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center. He succeeds Frank McCormick, who had been director of the cancer center since its founding in 1997. McCormick now assumes a role as director of the National Cancer Institute’s RAS Project, and will also continue as a faculty member in the cancer center.

Ashworth, a fellow with the Royal Society, played an influential role in the discovery of the BRCA2 gene in the 1990s. The gene is involved in the DNA repair pathway and has been implicated in several types of cancer, including breast, ovarian and prostate. This, in turn, led to the development of PARP inhibitors, a group of DNA damage-inducing drugs successful in clinical trials of BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutated cancers.

Ashworth said he aims to create close ties between the HDFCCC and the newly opened Bakar Cancer Hospital at Mission Bay. He told UCSF News recently that over the next 10 to 20 years a combination of conventional, targeted and immune therapeutic approaches would make advanced cancers manageable and early-stage cancers curable.

Asked to give advice to young researchers, he responded: “Don’t take advice from old farts like me.”