Our Team


Alan Ashworth, PhD, FRS

President, UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center
Co-Leader, Center for BRCA Research
Senior Vice President for Cancer Services, UCSF Health
Professor of Medicine, Division of Hematology/Oncology, Department of Medicine
E. Dixon Heise Distinguished Professor in Oncology

Alan AshworthAlan Ashworth began his role as President of the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center in San Francisco, in January 2015, coming to UCSF after having served as Chief Executive of the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) in London, United Kingdom.

In 1999, he was appointed the first Director of the Breakthrough Breast Cancer Research Centre where he was also Professor of Molecular Biology and leader of the Gene Function team. The Centre is now recognized as one of the leading Breast Cancer Centres internationally and has more than 120 scientists and researchers working on aspects of the disease ranging from basic molecular and cellular biology through to translational research and clinical trials. Dr. Ashworth’s Directorship ended in January 2011 when he was appointed Chief Executive of the ICR.

A translational biologist and laboratory researcher, Dr. Ashworth’s research focuses on understanding breast cancer genetics and applying what he learns to change the way patients are treated. He was a key part of the team that identified the BRCA2, a breast cancer susceptibility gene, which is linked to an increased risk of some types of cancer. Ten years later, Dr. Ashworth discovered a way to kill off BRCA1- and 2-related tumor cells by treating them with PARP inhibitors, which amplifies the damage caused by the broken DNA repair machinery in those cells. Dr. Ashworth’s research aims to identify genes and proteins that can be targeted with drugs to destroy breast tumor cells the goal being to enable clinicians to better identify new therapy options for breast cancer patients.

Dr. Ashworth is an elected member of the European Molecular Biology Association (EMBO) and the Academy of Medical Sciences as well as a Fellow of the Royal Society. He has been the recipient of a number of scientific prizes and awards including The European Society of Medical Oncology Lifetime Achievement Award, the David T. Workman Memorial Award of the Samuel Waxman Cancer Research Foundation, and the Meyenburg Foundation’s Cancer Research Award, and he was the inaugural winner of the 2013 Basser Global Prize. He was also recently selected as the recipient of the 2015 Genetics Society Medal.

Pamela Munster, MD

Professor of Medicine
Co-Leader, Center for BRCA Research
Program Leader Developmental Therapeutics
Director, Early Phase Clinical Trials Program

Pam MunsterPamela Munster received her medical degree from the University of Bern, Switzerland and completed her residency in Internal Medicine at Indiana University Medical Center. She then moved to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York for her oncology and hematology fellowship. She served at Memorial Sloan Kettering as a faculty member in the breast cancer program before joining the Division of Breast Oncology and Experimental Therapeutics Program at Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute, Tampa, Florida. Dr. Munster led the group as the Scientific Director of Breast Research and Co-Chair of the Phase 1 Program at Moffitt for six years prior to joining the University of California in San Francisco. Currently Dr. Munster is Professor in Residence at the University of California, San Francisco, where she is also the Director of Early Phase Clinical Trials Program at the Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Program Leader of Developmental Therapeutics.

Her basic laboratory research interests are in the area of developing novel targeted therapies for the treatment of treatment-resistant cancer and their integration into current treatment strategies. Dr. Munster’s research interest involves basic research studies on epigenetic modification of DNA repair and therapy resistance. Her laboratory is involved in several projects testing HDAC inhibitors, reverse hormone therapy resistance in breast cancer, and re-engaging immune defense. Dr. Munster’s clinical research interests are in the area of early anti-tumor drug development with focus on drugs that target the mTOR, P13k pathways and the epigenetic regulation of immune response to therapy. In addition to her interest in drug development, Dr. Munster has a special interest in germline cancer mutations.

Dr. Munster has published in numerous scientific journals and has given lectures on topics such as the management of metastatic breast cancer, breast cancer receptors, clinical trials and translational research.


Adult Hereditary Cancer Clinic

Mallika Dhawan, MD

Medical Oncologist, Center for BRCA Research - Hereditary Cancer Clinic 

Mallika DhawanDr. Mallika Dhawan is a medical oncologist specializing in the treatment of patients with hereditary cancer mutations.

Dr. Dhawan grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area before heading to UC San Diego for her undergraduate training in biomedical engineering. She remained at UC San Diego for medical school and later completed internal medicine training at Duke University. She returned to the Bay Area for her fellowship in oncology at UC San Francisco. Dr. Dhawan has been with the UCSF Center for BRCA Research since its inception in 2016, first as a post-doctoral fellow, and now as a faculty member working full time in the Hereditary Cancer Clinic (HCC). Not only has her addition allowed the HCC to expand its services, she is contributing to the design and implementation of clinical trials within the Center. Additionally, she designs trials in the Developmental Therapeutics program focused on patients whose tumors have mutations in DNA repair. She has an interest in cancer prevention as well as developing novel therapeutics for patients with advanced cancers.

Kelly Williams, NP

Nurse Practitioner, Center for BRCA Research - Hereditary Cancer Clinic

Kelly Williams received her Master of Science in nursing with a specialty focus in the Family Nurse Practitioner Program at Columbia University School of Nursing. She is board certified as a family nurse practitioner through the American Nurse’s Credentialing Center. Prior to joining UCSF, she practiced primary care in a community clinic in Northern California, where she encouraged disease prevention and health promotion. Her interests in early detection and prevention and in helping patients to understand and navigate their diagnoses are well aligned with the goals of the Hereditary Cancer Care Clinic.


Julie Mak, MS, CGC


Genetic Counselor, Center for BRCA Research - Hereditary Cancer Clinic

Julie MakJulie Mak is a genetic counselor and supervisor at the UCSF Hereditary Cancer Clinic, where she has worked since 2002. She has experience in all areas of hereditary cancer, with a special focus on hereditary gynecologic cancers.

Julie received her BS in biological science and German studies at Stanford, where she also completed her master's degree in neuroscience, with a focus on genetics. She received her master's degree in genetic counseling at the University of Toronto.


Pediatric Hereditary Cancer Clinic

Avanthi Shah, MD

Pediatric Oncologist - Pediatric Hereditary Cancer Clinic

Jessica Tenney, MD

Medical Geneticist - Pediatric Hereditary Cancer Clinic

Erica Southworth, NP

Nurse Practitioner - Pediatric Hereditary Cancer Clinic

Nicola Cadenas, LCGC

Genetic Counselor - Pediatric Hereditary Cancer Clinic

Research and Administration

Sydney Pietrzak

Program Manager

Pam MunsterAs the Program Manager for the UCSF Center for BRCA Research, Sydney is responsible for overseeing a wide range of capacity-building activities and collaborative efforts to ensure the BRCA Center’s growth and sustainability. Sydney’s areas of focus include administrative management, programmatic and strategic development for the BRCA Center’s laboratory science program, the grant and fellowship program, and public and scientific outreach efforts. Prior to joining the Center for BRCA Research in March 2019, Sydney worked in University Development and Alumni Relations at UCSF for 4 years on the Cancer Programs’ fundraising team, where she focused on donor relationship management and outreach for the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center (HDFCCC).


Vivian Matsutsuyu, MA

Research Analyst, Center for BRCA Research

Vivian Matsutsuyu received her MA from Mills College and came to UCSF with a wealth of project and account management experience. She has worked in support of the Phase 1 Program as well as coordinated meetings and seminars for the Developmental Therapeutics Program, Melanoma and other programs. Her work as a Research Analyst will build on this experience and aid in the successful development of the Center.

Silpa Karipineni

Clinical Research Coordinator, Center for BRCA Research