School of Biomedical Sciences

Staff Profiles

Professor Christine Harrison


Professor of Childhood Cancer Cytogenetics

Fellow, Academy of Medical Sciences 2013

Director, Leukaemia Research Cytogenetics Group

Director, Centre for Haemato-Oncology


Clinical Scientist, registered with Health Professions Council
Registration No. CS.08207
2001: Fellowship Royal College of Pathologists
1978: PhD Cell Biology Faculty of Medicine, University of Manchester
1975: BSc Genetics & Cell Biology, University of Manchester

Previous Positions

2001-2008 Reader/Professor of Cancer Cytogenetics & Director, Leukaemia Research Cytogenetics Group, University of Southampton
1997-2001 Director, Leukaemia Research Cytogenetics Group, University of London; Head, Cytogenetics, Dept of Haematology, Royal Free And University College Medical School, London


The remit of my research is to improve outcome for patients with acute leukaemia through genetics in UK treatment trials, by characterisation of existing and discovery of novel genetic changes.  I have over 30 years’ experience in planning and leading research activities of national/international repute in the area of cytogenetics/genetics of haematological malignancies. I was responsible for the initiation of a database for the cytogenetics of acute leukaemia in 1988, when the importance of chromosomal abnormalities in risk stratification for treatment was becoming evident. This has now developed into a large-scale collection of cytogenetic and genetic data, containing information on more than 28,000 UK patients, which is renowned to be one of the best leukaemia genetics research resources in the world. Some of the most recent analyses from these data have identified new cytogenetic-based risk categories in childhood and adult acute leukaemia, which have resulted in changes in clinical practice.

I have a passion for the development of new technologies. In the 1980’s, I pioneered studies on the scanning electron microscopy of metaphase chromosomes to provide increased resolution for detailed analysis at the structural level. The demand for images from these investigations continues to this day.

From studies on deletions of the long arm of chromosome 6 (6q) in acute leukaemia, I was one of the early pioneers of chromosome mapping using fluorescence in situ hybridisation (FISH)

I was responsible for the development of FISH for the detection of chromosomal abnormalities of prognostic significance in UK acute leukaemia clinical treatment trials. FISH is now used routinely in UK and has been adopted into trial protocols in Europe and internationally. This approach led to the discovery of novel chromosomal abnormalities for which modified treatment has significantly improved survival.

Within my group we provided early development of procedures for array-based comparative genomic hybridisation (aCGH) in acute leukaemia, which now is widely used for the detection of chromosomal imbalances, not only in leukaemia but a wide range of other cancers. Using this in association with other procedures, we have identified novel chromosomal abnormalities with potential as molecular targets for therapy. My current interests involve the application of next-generation sequencing to search for novel significant mutations in acute leukaemia. Understanding of the role of genetics in the improved survival of leukaemia patients is my ultimate aim.

Selected publications


  1. Moorman, A.V., Enshaei, A., Schwab, C., Chilton, L., Elliott, A., Richardson, S., Hancock, J., et al, Goulden, N., Vora, A. and Harrison, C.J.* (2014) A novel integrated cytogenetic and genomic classification refines risk stratification in paediatric acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL). Blood 124 (9): 1434-44


    Li, Y., Schwab, C., Ryan, S., Papaemmanuil, E., Heerema, N.A., Young, B.D., Stephens, P.J., et al, Stratton, M.R., Campbell, P.J.*Ϯ, Harrison, C.J.* Ϯ (2014) Constitutional and somatic rearrangement of chromosome 21 in acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. Nature 508 (7494): 98-102


      Russell, L.J., Enshaei, A., Bentley, H., Fielding, A.K., et al, Goulden, N., Vora, A., Moorman, A.V., Harrison, C.J.* Ϯ (2014) IGH@ translocations are prevalent in teenagers and young adults with ALL and are associated with a poor outcome. J Clin Oncol 32 (14): 1453-62


        Harrison, C.J. Ϯ, Moorman, A.V., Schwab, C., Carroll, A.J., Raetz, E.A., Devidas, M., et al, Hunger, S.P., Heerema, N.A., Haas, O.A. (2014) An international study of intrachromosomal amplification of chromosome 21 (iAMP21): cytogenetic characterization and outcome. Leukemia 28 (5): 1015-21


          Moorman, AV., Robinson, H. Schwab, C., Richards, SM.,  Hancock, J., Mitchell, CD., Goulden, N., Vora, A., Harrison, C.J.* (2013) Risk-directed treatment intensification significantly reduces the risk of relapse among children and adolescents with acute lymphoblastic leukemia and intrachromosomal amplification of chromosome 21: a comparison of the MRC ALL97/99 and UKALL2003 Trials. J Clin Oncol 31 (27): 3389-96.


            Moorman, A.V., Schwab, C., Ensor, H.M., Russell, L.J., et al, Patel, B., Rowe, J.M., Tallman, M., Goldstone, A.H., Fielding, A.K., Harrison, C.J.* (2012) IGH@ translocations, CRLF2 deregulation and micro-deletions in adolescents and adults with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). J. Clin Oncol 30 (25); 3100-8


              Rand, V., Russell, L.J., Schwab, C., et al, Ryan, S., Robinson, H., et al, Sinclair, P., Moorman, A.V., Strefford, J.C.*, Harrison, C.J.* Ϯ (2011) Genomic characterization implicates iAMP21 as a likely primary genetic event in childhood B-cell precursor acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Blood 117 (25); 6848-55


                Sinclair, P.B., Parker, H., An, Q., Rand, V., Ensor, H., Harrison, C.J.* Ϯ, Strefford, J.C.* (2011) Analysis of a breakpoint cluster reveals insight into the mechanism of intrachromosomal amplification in a lymphoid malignancy. Hum Mol Genet 20 (13); 2591-602


                  Moorman, A.V., Ensor, H.M., Richards, S.M., Chilton, L., Schwab, C., Kinsey, S., Vora, A., Mitchell, C.D., Harrison, C.J.* (2010) The prognostic impact of chromosomal abnormalities in childhood B-cell precursor acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. Lancet Oncology 11 (5); 429-38


                    Harrison, C.J.Ϯ, Hills, R.K., Moorman, A.V., Grimwade, D.J., et al, Webb, D.K.H., Wheatley, K., de Graaf, S.S.N., van den Berg, E., Burnett, A.K., Gibson, B.E.S. (2010) Cytogenetics of childhood acute myeloid leukemia: 729 patients in UK Medical Research Council treatment trials, AML 10 and 12. Journal of Clinical Oncology 28 (16); 2674-81


                      Russell, L.J., Capasso, M., Vater, I., Akasaka, T., Bernard, O.A., et al, Nguyen-Khac, F., Moorman, A.V., Schwab, C., Dyer, M.J., Siebert, R., Harrison, C.J.*Ϯ (2009) Deregulated expression of cytokine receptor gene, CRLF2, is involved in lymphoid transformation in B cell precursor acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Blood 114 (13); 2688-98.


                        Russell, L.J., De Castro, D.G., Griffiths, M., Telford, N., Bernard, O., Panzer-Grümayer, R., Heidenreich, O., Moorman, A.V., Harrison, C.J.*Ϯ (2009) A novel translocation, t(14;19)(q32;p13), involving IGH@ and the cytokine receptor for erythropoietin. Leukemia; 23 (3); 614-617.


                          Sulong, S., Moorman, A.V., Irving, J.A.E., Strefford, J.C., et al, Bown, N.P., Bailey, S., Hall, A.G. and Harrison, C.J.* (2009) A comprehensive analysis of the CDKN2A gene in childhood acute lymphoblastic leukaemia reveals homozygous deletion, haplo-insufficiency, copy number neutral loss of heterozygosity and association with specific cytogenetic subgroups. Blood; 113 (1); 100-107.


                            Russell, L.J., Akasaka, T., Majid, A., et al, Moorman. A.V., Ross, F., Mazzullo, H., Strefford, J.C., Siebert, R.*, Dyer, M.J.*, Harrison, C.J*Ϯ. (2008) t(6;14)(p22;q32): a new recurrent IGH@ translocation involving ID4 in B-cell precursor acute lymphoblastic leukemia (BCP-ALL). Blood 111 (1); 387-391


                              Akasaka, T., Balasas, T., Russell, L.J., Haas, O.A., et al, Strefford, J.C., Harrison, C.J.*Ϯ, Siebert, R.*, Dyer, M.J.* (2007). Five members of the CEBP transcription factor family are targeted by recurrent IGH-translocations in B-cell precursor acute lymphoblastic leukemia (BCP-ALL). Blood 109 (8); 3451-3461


                                Moorman, A.V., Richards, S.M., Robinson, H.M., Strefford, J.C., Gibson, B.E., Kinsey, S.E., Eden, O.B., Vora, A.J., Mitchell, C.D., Harrison, CJ.* (2007) Prognosis of children with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) and intra-chromosomal amplification of chromosome 21 (iAMP21). Blood 109 (6); 2327-2330.


                                  Strefford, J.C., et al, Robinson, H.M., van Delft, F., Griffiths, M., Ross, F.M., Talley, P., Saha, V., Moorman, A.V., Harrison, C.J.* (2007) Genome complexity in acute lymphoblastic leukaemia by array-based comparative genomic hybridisation. Oncogene 26 (29); 4306-4318.


                                    Strefford, J.C., van Delft, F.W., Robinson, H.M., et al, Selzer, R., Richmond, T., Bellotti, T., Raghavan, M., Young, B.D., Saha, V. & Harrison, C.J.* (2006) Complex patterns of genomic alteration and gene expression in patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia and intrachromosomal amplification of chromosome 21. Proc Natl Acad Sci 103 (21); 8167-8172.


                                      Moorman, A.V., Richards, S.M., et al, Robinson, H.M., Jalali, G.R., Gibson, B.E., Hann, I.M., Hill, F.G., Mitchell, C.D., Harrison, C.J.* on behalf of the United Kingdom Medical Research Council's Childhood Leukemia Working Party. (2003) Outcome heterogeneity in childhood high-hyperdiploid acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Blood 102 (8); 2756-2762.


                                        Harewood, L., Robinson, H., et al, Jalali, G.R., Martineau, M., Moorman, A.V., Richards, S., Mitchell, C. and Harrison, C.J.*Ϯ (2003) Amplification of AML1 on a duplicated chromosome 21 in acute lymphoblastic leukemia. A study of 20 cases. Leukemia 17 (3); 547-553.


                                          Total number of peer reviewed publications: 191


                                        Research Funding


                                        1. Visiting Fellow, Dr Jeyanthy Eswaran, Newcastle University PVC R&I Strategic Fund, 2013 (£4,000)  leading to award of: 


                                        2. “Defining the functions of novel integral membrane regulator, CMTM family, in B cell development and acute lymphoblastic leukemia”. FP7, Marie Curie International Incoming Fellowship for Dr Jeyanthy Eswaran (PI: CJ Harrison) 2014-2016 (£85,000)


                                        3. “Leukaemia Research Cytogenetics Group” (co-PI: CJ Harrison, AV Moorman) Leukaemia Research Fund Specialist Programme: (2011-2016) (£1,900,000)


                                        4. “Organisation of International Conference and Development of Centre Website” (PI: CJ Harrison on behalf of Centre for Haemato-Oncology) Newcastle University PVC R&I Strategic Fund, 2014 (£6,000)


                                        5. Genomic and functional characterisation of CEBP deregulation in B-lineage acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (PI: CJ Harrison, LJ Russell) Leukaemia Research Fund Gordon Piller PhD Studentship 2011-2015 (£130,400)


                                        6. Defining the opposing roles of HLXB9 in myeloid and lymphoid leukaemia (G Strathdee, CJ Harrison, co-applicant) Tyneside Leukaemia Research Fund, 2010-2013 (£83,897).


                                        7. Development of high throughput in vivo oncogenomic screening strategies in acute leukaemia. (PI: CJ Harrison) European Research Council Advanced Grant 2010-2015 (2,250,000 Euros)


                                        8. A novel approach to identify significant genes involved in the development and progression of acute leukaemia (PI: CJ Harrison, O Heidenreich, JAE Irving) Tyneside Leukaemia Research Fund, 2010-2011 (£75,463).


                                        9. Molecular characterisation of PDE9A rearrangements in ALL patients with iAMP21.(JC Strefford, CJ Harrison co-applicant, G Packham) Leukaemia Research Fund, January 2009-2010 (£65,106)


                                        10. The involvement of immunoglobulin genes in acute leukaemia. (PI: CJ Harrison, OA Bernard, LR Russell) Leukaemia Research Fund, March  2009-2011 (£89,600)


                                        11. Prognostic relevance of chromosomal abnormalities in acute leukaemia (AV Moorman, co-PI: CJ Harrison) Leukaemia Research Fund, Sept 2007-2010 (£94,791.38)


                                        12. LRF UK Myeloma Forum Cytogenetics Database (FM Ross, CJ Harrison co-applicant, NCP Cross) Leukaemia Research Fund Specialist Programme: (2007-2010) (£1,239,191)


                                        13. Leukaemia Research Fund /UK Cancer Cytogenetics Group Karyotype Database in Acute Leukaemia. (PI: CJ Harrison) Leukaemia Research Fund Specialist Programme: (2006-2011) (£1,920,042)



                                        Undergraduate Teaching

                                        Biomedical Sciences Plus

                                        Postgraduate Teaching

                                        PhD Examiner:
                                        University of Lund, Sweden

                                        University of Leuven, Belgium

                                        University of Ghent, Belgium
                                        University of Sheffield
                                        University of Cardiff
                                        University of Newcastle

                                        MD examiner:
                                        University of Sheffield
                                        University of London
                                        University of Southampton