Sidra Nawaz


From Oct. 2013
PhD Student, Division of Molecular Pathology, the Institute of Cancer Research, London, UK

2009 - 2013
MSci Physics, Imperial College London, UK

Current focus

H&E stained breast tumour section/biopsy images can be used to identify cancer, immune and stromal cells and make quantitative spatial and morphological measurements of each cell. My interest lies in investigating the spatial pattern of cancer and immune cells in these tumour samples. We only need visual assessment of the images to see that these cells are not evenly distributed throughout but tend to cluster in some areas, e.g. cancer cells will likely be found near blood vessels to maximise nutrient gain. Therefore, my questions are: How are immune cells positioned in relation to cancer cells? Are there areas of statistical relevance where we find the two populations to be intermixed? Can we find associated gene expression signatures for high and low intermixing? How does this relate to clinical outcome of the patient?

Posters & Talks

  1. Poster at AACR Computational and Systems Biology of Cancer, "Critical role of immune spatial heterogeneity and molecular scaffold in estrogen receptor-negative breast cancer", San Francisco, CA, February 2015
  2. Talk at EMBO|EMBL Symposium, "Tumour Microenvironment and Signalling", Heidelberg, Germany, May 2014
  3. Poster at the ICR Informatics Science Day, "The role of computational pathology in the search for new biomarkers for breast cancer", London, January 2014


  1. S. Nawaz, Y. Yuan, Computational pathology: Exploring the spatial dimension of tumor ecology, Cancer Lett., 2015.
  2. S. Nawaz, A. Heindl, K. Koelble and Y. Yuan, Beyond immune density: critical role of spatial heterogeneity in estrogen receptor-negative breast cancer, Mod Pathol, 2015.
  3. A. Heindl, S. Nawaz and Y. Yuan, Mapping Spatial Heterogeneity in the Tumour Microenvironment: A New Era for Digital Pathology, Lab Invest, 2015.


    I worte an article for the June 2015 issue of Immunology News, published by the British Society for Immunolgy, describing what motivated me to begin training as a researcher at Yinyin's lab, the questions we are trying to answer and some of the recent developments in my PhD project.

Outside work

Public engagement

Each year, the Royal Holloway hold a week-long science festival involving all manner of cool demonstrations and hands-on experiments for school children to help them see science as the fascinating and wonderful subject that it is, and dispel the preconceived notions which they often hold that scientists have no hair, no fun and no friends! The festival ends with a Super Science Saturday where people of all ages are invited to see science in action, have a go at experiments such as making ice cream using liquid nitrogen and talk to researchers about their work. This year, I was a part of the team of volunteers that represented the ICR at this event. Our theme was The Power and Curse of Mutations, and along with cool X-Men pictures we set up some games to help people understand how the three different types of mutation (insertion, deletion and substitution) arise in DNA. The kids loved our giant jenga (deletion) and the chair stacking game (insertion) while the parents left not only knowing the ICR exists but also the diverse areas of research that take place here and why curing cancer is such a challenge! Around 6000 people attended the event, many of whom visited us and provided excellent feedback. The day was a big success for the team as well as the ICR, and as this was a pilot outreach project we are hopeful of such events becoming a regular part of the ICR calendar.

Hobbies and Interests

Travel & travel writing, hiking, photography. Check out my photos on flickr.

PhD Student

Sidra Nawaz
Centre for Molecular Pathology
The Institute of Cancer Research
15 Cotswold Road