Grand Challenge:
Find a way of mapping tumours at the molecular and cellular level

Principal Investigator:
Prof. Ehud Shapiro (Weizmann Institute of Science)

Dr Ido Amit (Weizmann Institute of Science)
Prof. Caroline Dive (Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute)
Dr Levi Garraway (Dana-Farber Institute)
Dr John Marioni (Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute)
Prof. Chris Ponting (University of Edinburgh)
Dr Aviv Regev (Broad Institute)
Prof. Charles Swanton (UCL Cancer Institute/Crick Institute)
Prof. Amos Tanay (Weizmann Institute of Science)
Dr Alexander van Oudenaarden (Hubrecht Institute)

Patient Representative:
Maggie Wilcox


Nearly all cancer deaths are caused by the disease spreading metastases beyond the original tumour. Professor Ehud Shapiro from the Weizmann Institute of Science and his team propose to develop a method for generating personalised 4D atlases of cancers. Each atlas will reveal the 3D structure of the tumour and its metastases in exquisite detail. It will also depict the 4th dimension – time – showing the tumour's origins and how its cells evolved, spread metastases and developed resistance.

By transforming each atlas resulting from their in-depth cellular analysis into a 4D virtual reality scenario, a vivid portrayal of each cancer's growth over time and space will be created, with the patient’s body as the theatre and the cancer cells as ‘actors’ within.

This approach will provide unprecedented knowledge of the origin and spread of cancer, forming the basis for more effective diagnostic tools and treatments

The Cancer Research UK Grand Challenge call galvanized the pioneers of the emerging field of single-cell genomics. I am proud and excited to have these scientific leaders join me to apply our rapidly developing scientific discipline to finally provide a clear view, at single-cell resolution, of the creation and spread of metastases, the process that is the fundamental cause of cancer mortality.

Prof. Ehud Shapiro, Weizmann Institute of Science

I am really excited about the in-situ, single cell imaging technology that could come from this project. The vital information it could provide would enable researchers to pin point the origin of tumours and track their spread revolutionising cancer treatment entirely.

Dr Rick Klausner, Chief Medical Officer at Illumina

I love this challenge. Tumour mapping; a personalised four dimensional atlas of cancer; a 3D mapping of a patients tumour; a 3D virtual reality scenario!! How ‘futuristic’ and exciting this proposal is. The fourth dimension 'time’ probably presents the biggest challenge.

Terry Kavanagh, Grand Challenge Patient Advisory Panel

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