Dr Julian Barwell

Clinical Senior Lecturer in Familial Cancer Susceptibility

Contact Details


  • BSc in Basic Medical Sciences
  • Distinction in Medicine and MBBS
  • PhD in breast cancer susceptibility and radiosensitivity (London)

Research Interests

Improved Screening

There are currently no accepted methods using body fluids, which can reliably distinguish between patients with primary breast cancer and healthy controls, or for monitoring patients after surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. We are the first group worldwide to show that copy number variation (CNV) in specific chromosomal intervals detectable in circulating free DNA in plasma by single nucleotide polymorphism arrays distinguishes between patients with primary breast cancer and healthy female controls and potentially predicts breast cancer prior to imaging changes in women with a strong family history.  We wish to develop simple tests for early breast cancer screening and monitoring focussing on a limited number of CNVs and microRNA markers detectable in plasma.

The metabolic syndrome and susceptibility to hepatocellular carcinoma

We have seen a large three generation non-consanguineous family with non-alcoholic liver disease (NAFLD) with susceptibility to non-alcoholic steato-hepatitis (NASH), cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). 35 of the family have been seen to date. 14 members of the family have been affected to date in an suspected autosomal dominant pattern through an affected grandparent who had eleven children. In this family six of 11 children (all eleven predicted to be heterozygous for the variant) of the grandmother have developed cirrhosis to date, classically described as a irreversible fibrotic damage of the liver and two have been affected with hepatocellular carcinoma. A number of patients in the family have reversed steatohepatitis and fatty liver disease. Interestingly, evidence of fibrosis, cirrhosis and steatohepatitis (confirmed on biopsy) has been reversed to early steatohepatitis on repeat and serial fibroscanning through the use of ramipril and dietary management in one patient. The ability to reverse impedance on fibroscan (a surrogate marker of liver fibrosis) provides an example of how an inherited susceptibility to early cirrhosis and cancer could be effectively treated.


1.  Joint PI-Educational outreach project, HERO (Health Education Reaching Out). HERO is a GENIE (Genetics Education Networking for Innovation and Excellence) project developed in collaboration with and jointly funded by the NIHR CLAHRC-LNR as part of our remit to implement projects that improve health and evaluate the best practical approaches to deliver lifestyle outreach messages in secondary schools-currently 800 children taking part.

2.  PI- The Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care team in Leicester Northampton and Rutland (LNR-CLAHRC) with Macmillan Cancer Support, the Genetics Education Centre at the University of Leicester (GENIE), Cancer Research UK chemoprevention team and the National Hereditary Breast Cancer Helpline have developed the Supporting Families with Cancer project. As an example of patient commissioning in a shrinking economic climate, this involves research and information hubs in the community feeding into family medical supermarket events where cancer patient and their relatives have access to dieticians, physiotherapists, geneticists, counsellors, pyschotherapists, surgical buddies, local patient and charity stakeholder groups and researchers, specifically targeted to patient groups invited. In the light of 'westernisation' of diets and rapidly rising cancer rates in black and minority ethnic groups, we carry out community outreach media, road show and educational events in these communities and work alongside the Genetic Alliance UK to develop a simplified triage system for families affected by cancer, supported by the first clinical genetics YOU-TUBE channel.

Trans-generational genetic stability

We are assessing age of cancer diagnosis in parent-children pairs in MLH1 and MSH2 mutation carrier families to look for evidence of trans-generational genetic instability through shortening of telomeres.

Radiation Biology

The link between breast cancer radiotherapy induced biological ageing and functional cardiac defects.


To view Dr Barwell's publications, please use the links below:

Publications 2005 - 2008

Publications 2009 - 2012

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Powerful pre-clinical platform for anti-cancer drug and biomarker discovery

Pre-clinical models that can accurately predict outcomes in the clinic are much sort after in the field of cancer drug discovery and development.  Read about how patient derived explants offer many advantages and are the powerful model of choice. A copy of the review, published in the British Journal of Cancer, is available by clicking this link: PDE Platform


SEND Study Success

Congratulations to Chris Avery, who with collaborating colleagues published findings of the SEND study, a multi-centre randomised trial using two different surgical protocols for mouth cancer treatment.  A nationwide first for this type of trial, using real-world data.  The paper, published in the British Journal of Cancer, is available by clicking this link: SEND Paper


Centre Health and Wellbeing Group
Join up for a walk on the park Friday lunchtime - details here.

More information from Jenny McNair jm65@le.ac.uk

Contact Details

Leicester Cancer Research Centre
Robert Kilpatrick Clinical Sciences Building
University of Leicester
Leicester Royal Infirmary
Leicester LE2 7LX

T: +44 (0) 116 252 3170
E: cancerstudies@le.ac.uk

(Please note this email address should not be used for clinical referrals or patient correspondence)

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