Stanford Cancer Institute

SCI Women’s Cancer Center Innovation Award

March 2024

Garry Nolan, PhD, Rachford and Carlota Harris Professor, received an SCI Women’s Cancer Center Innovation Award for his proposal titled “Investigating DCIS progression via 3D volumetric imaging and single-cell spatial-omics.” His areas of research include hematopoiesis, cancer and leukemia, autoimmunity and inflammation, and computational approaches for network and systems immunology. Nolan works to gain a deeper understanding of immune function within different contexts including the interactions between cancers and the immune system.

Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) is a precursor to the most common form of invasive breast cancer - invasive ductal carcinoma - yet 30% of DCIS lesions never progress to invasive disease. To better identify which DCIS patients are at risk of developing invasive ductal carcinoma, and hence to prevent overtreatment, we need to better understand the characteristics DCIS. Prior research has shown an association between tissue morphology and the invasiveness of breast cancer. Yet, few studies have investigated the roles of breast tissue features in DCIS progression. With the support of the SCI Women’s Cancer Center Innovation Award, Nolan will create a “tissue-omics” atlas: the first ever 3D map of human DCIS. He will develop the computational framework to explore these maps and what they can tell us about the interplay among the different structural and cellular determinants of DCIS. Using this atlas, he will identify novel predictive cellular and structural features that promote DCIS invasion, allowing for more effective identification of at-risk patients. Though the focus of this proposal is on DCIS, the underlying workflow is applicable to other types of diseases, and the project therefore has broader significance.