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The Institute of Cancer Research names Professor Alan Ashworth FRS as new CEO


17 September 2010


Europe’s leading cancer research centre, The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), has named eminent scientist Professor Alan Ashworth as its new Chief Executive. Professor Ashworth will take up the appointment in January.


Professor Ashworth, who joined the ICR in 1986, is a world leader in cancer research and has been Director of the Breakthrough Breast Cancer Research Centre at the ICR since 1999.


One of Professor Ashworth’s major contributions to cancer research has been his work on genes involved in cancer risk. He 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, Professor Ashworth identified a way to exploit genetic weaknesses in cancer cells including mutated BRCA2 to create a new type of personalised medicine.


As well as developing new drugs, he is also joint leader of the world’s most comprehensive study into the causes of breast cancer, the Breakthrough Generations Study, which is monitoring 100,000 women over 40 years.


A Professor of Molecular Biology and a Fellow of the Royal Society, his present focus is translating laboratory studies into an improvement in patient care.


“I am honoured and thrilled to be selected to lead such a respected organisation with a proud 100-year history of achievement in cancer research,” Professor Ashworth says.


“As we move into an era of targeting treatments at the specific causes of a patient’s cancer, the ICR’s partnership with The Royal Marsden will put it in a unique position to ensure our new research benefits patients as quickly as possible. I am very excited by the opportunity to build on the ICR’s considerable successes in improving the lives of people with cancer.”


Professor Ashworth will replace outgoing Chief Executive Professor Peter Rigby, who will step down in January 2011. Under Professor Rigby the ICR acheived the number one ranking among the UK’s 132 higher education research centres in the authoritative analysis of the most recent Higher Education Funding Council’s Research Assessment Exercise.


Lord Ryder, Chairman of the ICR, says: “Professor Peter Rigby’s leadership of the ICR over the past 11 years has been outstanding. His drive and inspiration have turned the ICR into a global centre of excellence. We all owe him a huge debt of gratitude.


“Professor Ashworth is Professor Rigby’s natural successor. His work at the ICR has been admired and respected; he is a scientist of world renown who has shown superb leadership qualities as Director of the Breakthrough Breast Cancer Research Centre. He takes over as chief executive with the full support and good wishes of the staff and board of the ICR.”




Media Contact: ICR Science Press Officer Jane Bunce on [email protected] or 0207 153 5106


Notes to editors:

The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR)
• The ICR is Europe’s leading cancer research centre
• The ICR has been ranked the UK’s top academic research centre, based on the results of the Higher Education Funding Council’s Research Assessment Exercise
• The ICR works closely with partner The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust to ensure patients immediately benefit from new research. Together the two organisations form the largest comprehensive cancer centre in Europe
• The ICR has charitable status and relies on voluntary income, spending 90 pence in every pound of total income directly on research
• As a college of the University of London, the ICR also provides postgraduate higher education of international distinction
• Over its 100-year history, the ICR’s achievements include identifying the potential link between smoking and lung cancer which was subsequently confirmed, discovering that DNA damage is the basic cause of cancer and isolating more cancer-related genes than any other organisation in the world
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