Dr Lesley Tannahill PhD


Senior Research Fellow

School of Cancer Sciences

Contact details

School of Cancer Sciences
Clinical Research Block
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT


Lesley Tannahill has worked in a wide variety of Biomedical research teams in the UK and Switzerland and has gained a lot of expertise in Molecular Biology, Epigenetics and Proteomics. Recent experience has included a strong clinical component with emphasis on Cancer Research.


  • PhD in Medicine 1987 
  • BSc (Hons) Pharmacology, University of Edinburgh, 1983


Lesley Tannahill qualified with a BSc (Hons) in Pharmacology from the University of Edinburgh in 1983. She then went on to study for a PhD in Neuroendocrinology (Medicine) at the MRC Brain Metabolism Unit in Edinburgh. In 1986 she moved to Switzerland to gain more experience in the Molecular Sciences.

Since then, Lesley has worked mainly on Endocrine related Cancer in Switzerland and the UK. During the last few years in Birmingham, Lesley’s research focus has switched to looking for DNA methylation biomarkers that could be used in a screening test for Colorectal Cancer.


Lesley is working on the development of a non-invasive screening test for pre-symptomatic diagnosis of colorectal cancer. Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the third most common malignancy in the world and is the second leading cause of cancer mortality. However, survival rates are good if the cancer can be detected at an early stage and surgically resected.

Epigenetic alterations, such as CpG island methylation are known to play an important role in driving neoplastic change and may provide a valuable target for the identification of early tumours. Novel target genes have been identified using methylation micro arrays. Validation of these results by Pyrosequencing has shown these genes to be frequently hypermethylated in premalignant colorectal adenomas.

In collaboration with MRC-Holland, Lesley is establishing a screening assay in stool DNA to examine the methylation pattern of up to 26 of these methylation markers in stool DNA using Multiplex-Ligation-dependant-Probe-Amplification (MLPA) technology.


Leong KJ, Wei W, Tannahill LA, Caldwell GM, Jones CE, Morton DG, Matthews GM, Bach SP. (2011) Methylation profiling of rectal cancer identifies novel markers of early-stage disease. Br J Surg. Feb 24. doi: 10.1002/bjs.7422. [Epub ahead of print]

Tannahill, L.A., Tziambasis, E., Caldwell, G.M., Jones, C.E., Matthews, G.M., Morton, D.G. & Matthews, G.M. A novel collection and storage method for extracting good quality DNA from stool samples from a screening population. Submitted to Clin Chem (2011).

Boelaert K, Smith VE, Stratford AL, Kogai T, Tannahill LA, Watkinson JC, Eggo MC, Franklyn JA, McCabe CJ. (2007) PTTG and PBF repress the human sodium iodide symporter. Oncogene.26(30):4344-56.

Stratford AL, Boelaert K, Tannahill LA, Kim DS, Warfiels A, Eggo MC, Gittoes NJ, Young LS, Franklyn J and McCabe CJ. (2005). Pituitary tumor transforming gene binding factor: a novel transforming gene in thyroid tumorigenesis. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.90(7):4341-9.

Kristien Boelaert*, Run Yu§*, Lesley A Tannahill, Farhat L Khanim, Anna L Stratford, Margaret C Eggo, Jasbir S Moore, Lawrence S Young†, Neil JL Gittoes, Jayne A Franklyn, Shlomo Melmed§, Christopher J McCabe. 2004. PTTG’s C-terminal PXXP Motifs Modulate Critical Cellular Processes in vitro. J Mol Endocrinol. 33(3):663-77.

McCabe CJ, JS Khaira, K Boelaert, AP Heaney, LA Tannahill, S Hussain, R Mitchell, J Olliff, MC Sheppard, JA Franklyn, NJL Gittoes. 2003. Expression of pituitary tumor transforming gene (PTTG) and fibroblast growth factor-2 (FGF-2) in human pituitary adenomas – Relationships to clinical tumour behaviour. Clinical Endocrinology 58: 141-150

K Boelaert, C J McCabe, LA Tannahill, NJL Gittoes, RL Holder, JC Watkinson, AR Bradwell, MC Sheppard and JA Franklyn. 2003. Pituitary tumor transforming gene and fibroblast growth factor - 2 expression – Potential prognostic indicators in differentiated thyroid cancer. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 88: 2341-2347

K Boelaert, LA Tannahill, JN Bulmer, S Kachilele, SY Chan, NJL Gittoes, AR Bradwell, JA Franklyn, MD Kilby and McCabe CJ. 2003. A Potential Role for PTTG/securin in the Developing Human Fetal Brain. FASEB J 17:1631-9

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