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Professor Alan Ashworth to Receive Prestigious Award


Tuesday 22 September 2009


Professor Alan Ashworth, Director of the Breakthrough Breast Cancer Research Centre at The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), will be recognised for improving the care of breast cancer patients with the European Society for Medical Oncology’s Lifetime Achievement Award.


The European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) is Europe’s leading professional organisation for medical oncologists, with more than 5,000 members in over 100 countries. The Lifetime Achievement Award is given each year to an internationally-recognised cancer researcher who has made outstanding progress in developing vital targeted cancer treatments.


One of Professor Ashworth’s major contributions to cancer research has been his work on genes involved in cancer susceptibility. In 1995, he contributed to the discovery at the ICR of the breast cancer gene BRCA2, which is now used to identify women at high risk of the disease. Ten years later, his team discovered that cancer cells that carry mutant forms of BRCA1 or BRCA2 are highly sensitive to a class of drugs known as PARP inhibitors. Early results from clinical trials of PARP inhibitors have generated considerable excitement.


Professor Ashworth is also joint leader of the Breakthrough Generations Study, with Professor Anthony Swerdlow of the ICR. It is the world’s most comprehensive study into the causes of breast cancer, involving 100,000 women over 40 years.


Born in Lancashire in 1960, Professor Ashworth studied for his BSc in Chemistry and Biochemistry at Imperial College, London, before completing his PhD in Biochemistry at University College, London. He joined the ICR in 1986 and in 1999 was appointed Director of the Breakthrough Breast Cancer Research Centre at the ICR. Under Professor Ashworth’s guidance, more than 120 staff carry out cutting-edge research on diverse aspects of breast cancer at the UK’s first research centre dedicated to studying the disease.


Professor Ashworth says: “I am delighted and honoured to receive this award which is testament to all the hard work of my colleagues over the years.


“Our research has always been focused in areas that can be quickly translated into new treatments that can hopefully make a real difference to breast cancer patients.”


Professor Ashworth will be presented with the award and a €50,000 research grant today at a ceremony in Berlin, Germany, at the joint 15th Congress of the European CanCer Organisation (ECCO) and 34th ESMO Congress. He will also deliver a special lecture about the scientific advances he has achieved throughout his career.




Media Contact: Jane Bunce or 020 7153 5106 or after hours 077217 47900


The Institute of Cancer Research

The Institute of Cancer Research is Europe’s leading cancer research centre with expert scientists working on cutting-edge research. In 2009, the ICR marks its 100 years of groundbreaking research into cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment. In December 2008, the ICR was ranked as the UK’s leading academic research centre by the Times Higher Education’s Table of Excellence, based on the results of the Higher Education Funding Council’s Research Assessment Exercise. The ICR is a charity that relies on voluntary income, for more information visit


Breakthrough Breast Cancer

Breakthrough Breast Cancer is the UK’s leading charity committed to fighting breast cancer through research, campaigning and education. In 1999 Breakthrough established the UK’s first dedicated breast cancer research centre. The Breakthrough Toby Robins Breast Cancer Research Centre is housed in the Mary-Jean Mitchell Green building at The Institute of Cancer Research in association with The Royal Marsden Hospital. Under the directorship of Professor Alan Ashworth FRS, the Breakthrough Research Centre now has 120 world-class scientists and clinicians tackling breast cancer from all angles – from understanding the normal growth and development of the breast, how breast cancer arises and how the cancer spreads, to treatment and ultimately disease prevention.  Scientists at the Breakthrough Research Centre have a range of expertise and approaches and together they are working towards a common goal: a future free from the fear of breast cancer. For more information visit

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