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Professor Jonathan C Strefford BSc., PCCC, PhD

Professor of Cancer Genomics. Deputy Head of School – Research. Group Leader. Principle Investigator

Professor Jonathan C Strefford's photo
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As a Professor of Cancer Genomics, and an Honorary NHS Clinical Scientist, my research is translational and spans genomic screening, diagnostic methods as well as molecular mechanisms. My focus is on the application of massively parallel sequencing approaches to dissect the human genome and its epigenetic regulation. We then exploit these findings to develop novel biomarkers that help predict the disease course in cancer patients.

My lab aims to develop precision medicine approaches through harnessing our understanding of the human genome. Through the application of DNA sequencing technologies we continue to unmask genetic defects in genome of cancer patients, DNA lesions that can be used to transform the management of cancer patients, through more accurate prognostication and the development of targeted treatments.

After two years NHS training in clinical cytogenetics, Jon started his postgraduate education with a Ph.D. in Cancer Genetics and Genetic Toxicology at the University of Wales, Swansea, with a successful placement at Glaxo Wellcome. In 2000, he started his postdoctoral careers, working with Professor Bryan Young at the Cancer Research UK Medical Oncology Laboratory at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, London. In 2002, he received a Lectureship from Queen Mary and Westfield College, University of London, prior to a move to the University of Southampton. In 2008, after four years working with Professor Christine Harrison, Jon was awarded a Personal Fellowship from Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research and a Senior Lectureship within the Faculty of Medicine. 

His research focuses on the study of a number of mature B-cell neoplasm, in particular chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) and splenic marginal zone lymphoma (SMZL) and to a lesser extent follicular (FL) and diffuse large b-cell lymphoma (DLBCL).. The research projects coordinated by Professor Strefford runs from biomarker discover, using a plethora of genomics approaches, to biomarker validation employing large international patient cohorts, to functional analysis, employing in vitro and in vivo model systems.

To facilitate these research objectives, Professor Strefford has attracted more than £25 million in grant funding from national and international research agencies and charities. He has spoken at international meetings such as the American Society of Hematology, the International Workshop on CLL and the American Association for Cancer Research.

Professor Strefford has extensive experience as a consultant for commercial companies, facilitating the development of FISH, microarray and sequencing products. He also has strong links with the pharmaceutical industry and acts as a consultant and contract research provider for a series of large international clinical trials.

Dr Strefford’s Linkedin and ResearchGate profiles.

Cancer Genomics Group Facebook Page


Current appointments held

Previous appointments held

Research interests

Our research group is interested in the analysis of the genome and epigenome of mature B-cell tumours. Over three billion base-pairs of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), bound with accessory proteins in the form of chromatin, are super-coiled and packed into 23 autosomal and sex-determining chromosomes, constituting the human genome, the genetic blueprint for normal human development and cellular function.

A leukaemic cell, in addition to carrying this diploid genome that has been inherited from both parents, has also acquired a series of somatic genomic lesions, including base-pair mutations, chromosomal rearrangements and large-scale copy number alterations (CNAs). Epigenetic defects in the form of disordered DNA methylation, chromatin remodelling and dysregulation of small noncoding micro-ribonucleic acids (miRNAs) are also present.

The acquisition of these (epi)genomic defects can enable many of the hallmarks of leukaemogenesis, such as the promotion of proliferative signalling, the evasion of growth suppression and the resistance to apoptosis. Our work has involved the identification and characterisation of these defects, and these insights have helped us understand the leukaemic process, improving cancer diagnosis, accurate risk-adapted stratification and the development of targeted treatments for precision medicine.

Our laboratory works on a number of B-cell tumours, principally chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) and splenic marginal zone lymphoma (SMZL), and to a lesser extent follicular (FL) and diffuse large b-cell lymphoma (DLBCL). CLL is the most common form of leukaemia in Western populations, accounting for approximately one-third of all new diagnoses.  Clinically, the disease is highly heterogeneous, with patients surviving for decades with a benign disease requiring no treatment, while others exhibit a rapidly progressive disease despite aggressive therapy. SMZL is considered a low grade, indolent B-cell neoplasm with a median survival of approximately 10 years, but 70% of patients present with or develop progressive disease with a requirement for therapy, and 5–10% will undergo transformation to a large B-cell lymphoma. For both diseases, no biomarkers accurately predict the disease course, particularly in early stage disease. Furthermore, definitive diagnosis of SMZL can be challenging.

In CLL, we have identified, or help characterize many of the recurrently mutated genes emerging from recent high-throughput sequencing studies. We continue to be at the centre of large international collaborative studies, mapping the CLL genome and assessing the clinical importance of gene mutations. In SMZL, we published one of the seminal studies identifying KLF2 as a target of novel recurrent gene mutations. We currently lead a large international study investigating the importance of somatic mutations and DNA methylation changes in SMZL.

PhD Supervision

Louise Carr – Current
Anna Takeuchi – Current
Sarah Frampton – Current
Lara Buermann – Curren
Joe Taylor – Current
Jemma Longley – Current
Carolina Jaramillo – Current
Rachel Dobson – 2018
Stuart Blakemore – 2018
Kate Packwood – 2017
Jade Forster – 2016
Victoria Hammond – 2010
Helen Parker – 2008
Lisa Russell - 2007

Research Projects

The Genomic landscape of mature B-cell tumours

One of our principle interests is in the characterization of the CLL and SMZL genome, identifying recurrent chromosomal deletions and somatic mutations that can aid in more appropriate clinical management. We employ sophisticated sequencing approaches and comprehensive computational analysis to unravel the genomic landscape of CLL and SMZL tumour cells. We collaborated with other international opinion leaders to elucidate the biological and clinical importance of these DNA mutations. One of our key on-going projects focused on the importance of genomic complexity in CLL, based on the observation that patients exhibiting a high number of genomic lesions in their cancer cells, exhibit poor survival. We now lead national and international studies aimed at defining exactly what level of complexity is most clinically relevant, and how this measure can most accurately aid patient management.

Molecular mechanisms contributing to the survival of B-cell neoplasms.

In collaboration with Professor Graham Packham and Dr Francesco Forconi

This project focuses on understanding the impact of signalling via the B-cell receptor (BCR) and the microenvironment on the epigenome of CLL cells, particularly the dysregulation of miRNAs and DNA methylation, as well as chromatin remodelling. In vitro analysis of signalling has previously demonstrated that individual CLL samples vary in their ability to transmit signals via the cell surface BCR. Retained signalling is associated with the presence of poor prognostic markers and a poor clinical outcome. Thus, antigen signalling via the BCR, in the context of specific tissue microenvironments, is considered to play a key role in driving cell proliferation and survival, leading to disease progression. We employ state-of-the-art next generation sequencing approaches to identify epigenomic determinants of differential B-cell receptor responsiveness in tumour cells. These observations will have clinical utility, such that they will predict the aggressiveness of the disease or identify the most appropriate treatment.

(Epi)genomic analysis of the Fc gamma receptors (FcgR) in normal and malignant B-cells

In collaboration with Dr Jane Gibson and Professor Mark Cragg

Fc gamma receptors (FcgRs) are a protein family expressed by a variety of immune cells. Current evidence indicates that almost all monoclonal antibody therapies act by engaging FcgR in the host. The low-affinity FcgRs are encoded by a 200Kb gene cluster at 1p24, that is highly repetitive and difficult to study with traditional technologies. This project focuses on the application of long-read sequencing technologies to generate detailed sequencing maps of the FCGR in normal and malignant immune cells.


Cancer Sciences

Affiliate Department(s)

Cancer Sciences Research group

Current Group Members (research focus)

Professor Jonathan Strefford – Professor in Cancer Molecular Genetics and Group Leader
Dr Helen Parker – Senior Postdoctoral Research Fellow
(CLL Genomics)
Dr Dean Bryant – Senior Postdoctoral Fellow (Bioinformatics)
Dr Jaya Thomas – Senior Bioinformatician
Mrs Lara Buermann – Graduate Student (Chromatin modelling)
Miss Carolina Jaramillo – Graduate Student (Lymphoma Genomics)
Miss Sarah Frampton – Graduate Student (long-read sequencing)
Miss Anna Takeuchi – Graduate Student (Hydroxymethylation analysis)
Miss Louise Carr – Graduate Student (CLL Genomics)

Past Group Members (current affiliation)

Dr Harindra Amarasinghe – Postdoctoral Fellow (University of Oxford)
Dr Tomasz Wojdacz – Postdoctoral Fellow (Pomeranian Medical University)
Dr Matthew Rose-Zerilli – Postdoctoral Research Fellow (Group Leader in Cancer Sciences)
Dr Linsey Smith – Postdoctoral Fellow (University of Southampton)
Dr Marina Parry – Postdoctoral Research Fellow (University College London)
Dr Stuart Blakemore – Graduate Student (Uniklinik Köln)
Dr Marta Larrayoz – Postdoctoral Research Fellow (Cima Universided de Navarra)
Dr Jade Forster – Graduate Student (University of Southampton)
Dr Chantal Hargreaves – Postdoctoral Research Fellow (University of Oxford)
Dr Chisako Iriyama – Visiting Clinician Scientist (Nagoya University Graduate School of Medicine)
Dr Ana Rodríguez-Vicente – Visiting Fellow (Universidad de Salamanca)
Mr Miqdad Rajibali – Welcome Trust PhD Student
Mr Lee Brown – Visiting Masters Student (Cranfield University)
Mr Anton Parker – Visiting Scientist (Royal Bournemouth Hospital)
Mr Alistair McIntosh – Visiting Undergraduate Project Student (Birmingham University)
Dr Qian An – Postdoctoral Fellow (now at Portsmouth University)

Faculty of Medicine Committees

School of Cancer Sciences – Vice-Chair of the CRUK Clinical Centre Executive Committee (since 2018)
School of Cancer Sciences – Member of the CRUK Clinical Centre Executive Committee (2014-2018)
School of Cancer Sciences – Chair of the Lab Management Committee (2014-2018)
School of Cancer Sciences – Member of the Faculty IT Strategy Group (2012 - 2016)
School of Cancer Sciences - Member of the Faculty Website Strategy Group (2011 - 2016)
Faculty of Medicine – Academic member of the Postdoctoral Association (PDA) Committee
Faculty of Medicine – PDA Website Manager (2010 - 2016)
Faculty of Medicine – Postdoctoral Mentoring Working Group, (2010 - 2016)

National Responsibilities

Scientific Secretary of the UK CLL Forum (since 2016)
Chairperson of the UK CLL Scientific Workshop (since 2013)
Executive Member of the UK CLL Forum (since 2013)
Member of the UK CLL Biobank Research Governance Committee (since 2012)
Member of the UK CLL Trials Committee (since 2011)
British Society of Haematology member (BSH, since 2009)
UK Childhood Leukaemia Research Group member (2004-2009)
BSHG Scientific Committee member (2005-2011)
BSHG Annual Meeting Organisational Committee member (2005-2011)
Member of the British Society of Human Genetics (BSHG, 1995-2013)
Member of the Association of Clinical Cytogeneticists (1994-2013)

International Responsibilities

American Society of Hematology (ASH, since 2009)
American Association for Cancer Research (active membership since 2001)
Member of the European Research Initiative on CLL (ERIC) (2008- present)
‘Novel Mutations’ Project co-lead for ERIC (2010- present)

Editorial Board member

‘Exploration of Targeted Anti-tumor Therapy’
'Cancer Genomics and Proteomics’
‘Journal of Carcinogenesis and Mutagenesis’
'Journal of Hematology'
'Open Journal of Genomics'

Journal Reviewing

Including: Annals of Oncology, Blood, Blood Advances, Blood Cancer Journal, Bioinformatics, BMC Medical Genomics, British Journal of Cancer, British Journal of Haematology, Critical Reviews in Oncogenesis, Cytogenetics and Genome Research, Genes Chromosome and Cancer, Haematologica, Human Molecular Genetics, International Journal of Cancer, Journal of Clinical Oncology, Journal of Medical Genetics, Journal of Pathology, Lancet Haematology, Leukemia, Leukemia and Lymphoma, Leukemia Research, Molecular Genetics, Nature Communications, Nature Genetics, Oncogene.

Conference Organizer / Reviewer

Including: British Society of Human Genetics, European Haematology Association, International Workshop on CLL, British Society of Haematology.

Grant reviewing for funding bodies

Wellcome, MRC, Blood Cancer UK, KKLF, AICR, CRUK, Myeloma UK, Children with Cancer, Nederlands National Fund for Scientific Research, Czech Science Foundation, Polish National Academy of Academic Exchange, Indian Biomedical Research Fellowship Programme, Wellcome Trust – India, DBT Alliane, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, NIH P01

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Book Chapters




Module co-ordinator for the MSc in Genomic Medicine, Precision medicine module.

Personnel Academic Tutor for BM4 and BM5 medical students and PGT students of the Genomic Medicine MSc.

Facilitator on the BM4 graduate medicine programme

Project supervisor for BMedSci, MMedSci, MSc, undergraduate and rotation students.

Assessment marker for MSc, iPhD projects


Professor Jonathan C Strefford
Somers Cancer Research Building Southampton General Hospital Mailpoint 824 Tremona Road Southampton SO16 6YD

Room Number: SGH//MP824

Telephone:(023) 8120 5246
Facsimile:(023) 8120 5152

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