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Professor Diana Eccles MB ChB, MD, FRCP, FRCP (Royal College of Physicians, London 1996)

Dean of Medicine, Professor of Cancer Genetics

Professor Diana Eccles's photo

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

Cancer Genetic Susceptibility and variant interpretation

ENIGMA Consortium

The CanGene-CanVar programme is a £4.1m CRUK Population Science Accelerator award (2019-2024) which I co-lead with colleagues at QMUL and Cambridge. Our 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.

Inherited factors and breast cancer prognosis

Prospective study of Outcomes in Sporadic versus Hereditary breast cancer (acronym POSH). This National Cancer Research Network Portfolio study 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 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.

Some of the outcomes with immediate clinical relevance including establishing that:

The frequency of BRCA1 and BRCA2 pathogenic variants amongst triple negative breast cancers diagnosed under 40 was sufficiently high to meet national testing guidelines regardless of family history (J Clin Oncol 2015)

A BRCA1 or BRCA2 inherited pathogenic variant impacts tumour characteristics but not survival during the first 10 years after diagnosis (Lancet Oncol. 2018).

A CHEK2 germline pathogenic variant, although lower lifetime risk than BRCA1 or BRCA2, is associated with a worse prognosis (J Clin Oncol Precision Oncology 2020).

Obesity is associated with a significantly worse chance of survival even after all known tumour prognostic factors are accounted for (Annals Oncol 2015)

Multiple publications from my group and with international collaborative groups have greatly increased discovery of known common genetic variants that are associated with breast cancer risk, breast tumour biology and prognosis.

In collaboration with Professor Clare Foster (Health Sciences), we have developed a Decision Aid aimed specifically at younger women with a new diagnosis of breast cancer who are offered germline genetic testing (Psycho-oncology 2016). This work will be continued as part of the CanGene-CanVar programme.

PhD supervision

Stephanie Greville-Heygate (MD Student)

MPhil/PHD Research Project

The Impact of Germline Genotype on Breast Cancer Tumour Phenotype and Outcome

Co-supervisor Dr William Tapper

Funding: Genomics England


Research group

Cancer Sciences

Affiliate research group

Cancer Sciences Research group

REF2021: appointed to PANEL A Sub Panel 1

MRC Clinical Academic Research Partnership (Chair)

RCP Joint Committee for Medical Genetics

Editorial Board Journal of the National Cancer Institute

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Book Chapters




As Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Professor Eccles has oversight of our undergraduatepost-graduate programmes in the Faculty of Medicine.

Professor Eccles continues to participate as an invited faculty member and cancer genetics expert in international educational and research conferences.

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

Room Number : SGH/SAB/

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