Molecular biologist Alan Ashworth, Ph.D., FRS, the director of the Breakthrough Breast Cancer Research Centre at the Institute of Cancer Research in London will receive the David T. Workman Memorial Award on May 17. The two-year grant of $50,000 from the Samuel Waxman Cancer Research Foundation will support Dr. Ashworth's work with PARP inhibitors in BRCA-mutated cancers.
"I'm both surprised and delighted that the Waxman Foundation has thought to honor me in this way," said Dr. Ashworth. "Recognition from your peers is incredibly important and I'm thrilled."
Dr. Ashworth helped discover the BRCA2 breast cancer gene in 1995. After realizing that BRCA-related cancers had a flawed DNA repair pathway, Dr. Ashworth and his team worked with a biotechnology company to study the use of PARP inhibitors to treat these cancers. They learned that BRCA-defective cancer cells were 1,000 times more sensitive to PARP inhibitors than cells that were normal. His lab is studying the use of PARP inhibitors to treat cancers such as endometrial cancer, ovarian cancer and breast cancer, including triple-negative breast cancer, which responds poorly to normal chemotherapy.
Speaking about Dr. Ashworth's research in triple-negative breast cancer, Samuel Waxman, M.D., the Scientific Director of the Waxman Foundation said it represents a contribution from a scientist unraveling a genomic defect in breast cancer that has resulted in a novel treatment for women who would otherwise have a poor prognosis.
Michael Nierenberg, the Chair of the Foundation added, "The Waxman Foundation is committed to bridging the gap between lab science and the patient. We are excited to help further the important work of Dr. Ashworth and his lab."
Recent recipients of the Workman Award include Stephen Baylin, M.D., and Peter Jones, Ph.D., in 2008 for the development of demethylating agents and epigenetic therapy for hematologic malignancies and Douglas Lowy, M.D., and John Schiller, Ph.D., in 2006 for their advance in preventing cervical cancer with the HPV vaccine.