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Published on 22 September 2009

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Leading scientist Professor Alan Ashworth to receive prestigious award for cancer discoveries


The Lifetime Achievement Award is given each year to an internationally-recognised cancer researcher who has made progress in developing vital cancer treatments.

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.

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.


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