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The University of Southampton

Professor Diana Eccles MB ChB, MD, FRCP

Dean of Medicine, Professor of Cancer Genetics

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Professor Diana Eccles is Dean of Medicine and is also Professor of Cancer Genetics at the University of Southampton.

Professor Eccles has been Chair of Cancer Genetics since 2004. She graduated from Manchester University on 1983 and has trained in Manchester, Edinburgh and Southampton. After training in general medicine, then specialist training in adult oncology she worked on the molecular genetics of ovarian cancer in the MRC Human Genetics Unit in Edinburgh to gain her MD in 1992. She then moved to Southampton to a research post in Genetic Epidemiology simultaneously training in Clinical Genetics and when appointed to a consultant post in Southampton in 1995 she set up one of the first NHS funded Cancer Genetics Services in the UK within the Wessex Clinical Genetics Service.

Professor Eccles is the Chief Investigator for a large national cohort study (the Prospective study of Outcomes in Sporadic versus Hereditary breast cancer). This study has recruited over 3000 women with breast cancer diagnosed before 41 years of age and provides material for studies investigating the role of inherited genetic mutation in breast cancer risk and prognosis. She is PI for a number of other clinical studies that broadly aim to improve diagnosis or management of genetic predisposition to cancer and incorporates cancer prevention studies.

Professor Eccles is part of Cancer Sciences which incorporates the Southampton Cancer Research UK Centre, the Southampton Clinical Trials Unit and links closely through our clinical academics to Cancer Care at UHS ( She continues to work as an NHS consultant in clinical cancer genetics which encompasses diagnosis and management of many different genetic conditions that predispose to tumour development in families.


MB ChB, Medicine and Surgery, Manchester University (1983)
MRCP, Royal College of Physicians Edinburgh (1986)
MD, Molecular Genetics of Ovarian Cancer, Manchester University (1992)

Appointments held

Lecturer in Medical Oncology 1986-1989

Clinical Research Fellow in MRC Human Genetics Unit Edinburgh 1989-1992

Clinical Research Fellow in Cancer Genetics Epidemiology Research Group and Honorary Senior Registrar in Clinical Genetics, Southampton 1992-1994

Consultant in Clinical Genetics (Cancer specialization) and Honorary Senior Lecturer in Cancer Genetics, Southampton 1995-2004

Professor of Cancer Genetics and Honorary Consultant in Clinical Genetics, Southampton 2004-present

Director of University of Southampton Clinical Trials Unit December 2009-2014

Head of Cancer Sciences 2015-2018

Research interests

Prospective study of Outcomes in Sporadic versus Hereditary breast cancer (acronym POSH). This National Cancer Research Network Portfolio study has recruited over 3000 women diagnosed with breast cancer at very young ages (before 41 years at diagnosis). Comprehensive clinical data and DNA samples for most recruits are available. Flagging in the national Medical Research Information Service database means that the patients taking part in the study can be tracked for twenty years following diagnosis.

The aim of the study has been to explore the role of inherited genetic variants in determining tumour biology, treatment responses and overall impact on survival.

We have established that:-

Having a family history does not affect the likelihood of surviving after breast cancer diagnosis (Eccles BK, Copson ER, Cutress RI, Maishman T, Altman DG, Simmonds P, et al. Family history and outcome of young patients with breast cancer in the UK (POSH study). Br J Surg. 2015;102(8):924-35.)

Obesity is associated with a significantly worse chance of survival even after all known tumour prognostic factors are accounted for (Copson ER, Cutress RI, Maishman T, Eccles BK, Gerty S, Stanton L, et al. Obesity and the outcome of young breast cancer patients in the UK: the POSH study. Ann Oncol. 2015;26(1):101-12.).

A BRCA1 or BRCA2 inherited pathogenic variant impacts tumour characteristics but once this is accounted for does not impact survival during the first 10 years after diagnosis (Copson ER, Maishman TC, Tapper WJ, Cutress RI, Greville-Heygate S, Altman DG, et al…..Eccles DM. Germline BRCA mutation and outcome in young-onset breast cancer (POSH): a prospective cohort study. Lancet Oncol. 2018;19(2):169-80.)

Common genetic variants not only impact breast cancer risk but also can be associated with breast cancer survival with multiple collaborative publications (e.g. Couch FJ, Hart SN, Sharma P, Toland AE, Wang X, Miron P, et al. Inherited mutations in 17 breast cancer susceptibility genes among a large triple-negative breast cancer cohort unselected for family history of breast cancer. J Clin Oncol. 2015;33(4):304-11.)

The study provides opportunities for projects for students on the MSc Clinical Trials and Statistics course in Southampton (Copson E, Eccles B, Maishman T, Gerty S, Stanton L, Cutress RI, et al. Prospective observational study of breast cancer treatment outcomes for UK women aged 18-40 years at diagnosis: The POSH study. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2013;105(13):978-88.).

Working collaboratively with researchers in qualitative medicine in Health Sciences, we have developed a Decision Aid aimed specifically at younger women will be developed and piloted in preparation for a future randomised trial of its use (Grimmett C, Brooks C, Recio-Saucedo A, Cutress R, Copson E, Evans G, et al. YoDA BRCA: views and experiences around genetic testing for young women with breast cancer: developing a decision aid. Psycho-Oncology. 2016;25:10-1.).

As co-lead for a £4.1m CRUK Population Science Accelerator award (2019-2024) between QMUL, Southampton, Cambridge, ongoing research will address the effective interpretation and clinical translation of inherited variants in cancer susceptibility genes. This work will help to translate cancer genetic testing into the population and as a risk prediction tool and brings maximum benefits of new technology to future medical practice. In addition to the scientific programme developing analysis tools and integrating complex datasets to improve variant interpretation, the importance of clinician and patient education and patient and public involvement are specifically encompassed across three work packages lead from Southampton.


Cancer Sciences

Affiliate Department(s)

Cancer Sciences Research group

Postgraduate student supervision


1995-1998 Wendy Sotheran MD
2000-2004 Mohammed Al-Dahmesh PhD
2004-2008 Ellen Copson PhD
2006-2010 Victoria Hammond PhD
2008-2013 Ioannis Politopoulos PhD
2009-2014 Rosie Upstill-Goddard PhD
2012-2016 Kate Packwood PhD
2016-2017 Stephanie Greville-Heygate MSc


2015-present Hayley McKenzie
2017- present Stephanie Greville-Heygate MD

University of Southampton

Present         Dean of Faculty of Medicine
2015-2018     Head of Cancer Sciences
2012-2014     Chair of the Faculty of Medicine Athena Swan Silver Self-Assessment Team
2018-present Chair of the University of Southampton Athena Swan Self-Assessment Team
2018-present Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity Champion

National and International responsibilities

2018-ongoing Member of the Joint Committee on Genomics in Medicine
2016-2019   Cancer Research UK Clinical Careers Committee
2014-2016   UK Genetic Testing Network – Genetic Test Evaluation Working Group
2015-2017   Genomics England Hereditary Cancer Genomics Clinical Interpretation Partnership
2015-2016         Research Council of Norway Scientific Advisory Board for Centres of Excellence Awards
2014-2016   Member of the Advisory Board Astra Zeneca PARP inhibitor trials
2012-2018   Member of the BCC Tissue Bank Tissue Access Committee (TAC)
2014-ongoing   Member of the NCRI Colorectal Clinical Studies Group
2014-ongoing   Member of the UK Cancer Prevention Studies Group
2012-2015         Academic Vice President of the Clinical Genetics Society
2011-2013         National Institute for Clinical Excellence Guideline Development Group responsible for developing the revised Management of Familial Breast Cancer Guideline CG164
2011-2015         MRC Clinical Research Training Fellows Scientific Review Board (Member)
2010-2014         Member of National Cancer Research Institute Breast Cancer Studies Group
2011-2014         Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation Scientific Advisory Board (Member)
2009-2014         Associate Editor of the Journal of Medical Genetics




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Professor Eccles delivers the Cancer Genetics lecture in Semester 4 for the BM5 students and acts as personal tutor to undergraduate medical students as they progress through the course.

Professor Eccles’ main teaching commitment is to training at specialist and F2 level in Clinical Genetics, she is the Wessex Regional Specialist Advisor for Genetics Foundation year 2 lead tutor for Clinical Genetics. Nationally she is the Academic Vice President of the Clinical Genetics Society and a member of the RCP Specialist Advisory Committee for Clinical Genetics. She also advises on genetic education in the Oncology trainees curriculum and is involved in training for oncology registrars in the Wessex Region.

As an expert in Cancer genetics, Professor Eccles is a regular faculty member at a variety of national and international educational fora including the European Society for Medical Oncology conference, European School of Oncology, the European School of Human Genetics and the Anglo-Indian Genetics Collaboration.

Professor Diana Eccles
Phone: (023) 8120 6581 Fax: (023) 8120 4346 Email:

Room Number: SGH/SAB/

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