Department of Health and Human Services
Part 1. Overview Information
Participating Organization(s)

National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Components of Participating Organizations

National Cancer Institute (NCI)

Funding Opportunity Title

Research Answers to NCI's Provocative Questions (R01)

Activity Code

R01 Research Project Grant

Announcement Type

New

Related Notices
  • NOT-OD-16-004 - NIH & AHRQ Announce Upcoming Changes to Policies, Instructions and Forms for 2016 Grant Applications (November 18, 2015)
  • NOT-OD-16-006 - Simplification of the Vertebrate Animals Section of NIH Grant Applications and Contract Proposals (November 18, 2015)
  • NOT-OD-16-011 - Implementing Rigor and Transparency in NIH & AHRQ Research Grant Applications (November 18, 2015)
Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) Number

RFA-CA-15-008

Companion Funding Opportunity

RFA-CA-15-009, R21 Exploratory/Developmental Grant

Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) Number(s)

93.393, 93.394, 93.395, 93.396, 93.399 

Funding Opportunity Purpose

The purpose of this Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) is to support research projects designed to solve specific problems and paradoxes in cancer research identified by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Provocative Questions initiative. These problems and paradoxes phrased as questions are not intended to represent the full range of NCI's priorities in cancer research. Rather, they are meant to challenge cancer researchers to think about and elucidate specific problems in key areas of cancer research that are deemed important but have not received sufficient attention.

Some of these "Provocative Questions" (PQs) stem from intriguing but older, neglected observations that have never been adequately explored. Other PQs are built on more recent findings that are perplexing or paradoxical, revealing important gaps in current knowledge. Finally, some PQs reflect problems that traditionally have been thought to be intractable but that now may be open to investigations using new strategies and recent technical advances.

The current issuance of the PQ Initiative involves an updated set of 12 PQs. Each research project proposed in response to this FOA must be focused on addressing one particular research problem defined by one specific PQ selected from the list. Projects proposed to address specific PQs may use strategies that incorporate ideas and approaches from multiple disciplines, as appropriate. Transdisciplinary projects are encouraged as long as they serve the scientific focus of the specific PQ chosen.

Key Dates
Posted Date

March 27, 2015

Open Date (Earliest Submission Date)

May 29, 2015  

Letter of Intent Due Date(s)

30 days before application due date  

Application Due Date(s)

June 29, 2015; October 29, 2015; June 29, 2016; October 28, 2016, by 5:00 PM local time of applicant organization. All types of non-AIDS applications allowed for this funding opportunity announcement are due on these dates.

No late applications will be accepted for this Funding Opportunity Announcement.

Applicants are encouraged to apply early to allow adequate time to make any corrections to errors found in the application during the submission process by the due date.

AIDS Application Due Date(s)

Not Applicable

Scientific Merit Review

October-November 2015, February-March 2016, October-November 2016, February-March 2017  

Advisory Council Review

January 2016, June 2016, January 2017, May 2017  

Earliest Start Date

March 2016

Expiration Date

October 29, 2016

Due Dates for E.O. 12372

Not Applicable

Required Application Instructions

It is critical that applicants follow the instructions in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide, except where instructed to do otherwise (in this FOA or in a Notice from the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts). Conformance to all requirements (both in the Application Guide and the FOA) is required and strictly enforced. Applicants must read and follow all application instructions in the Application Guide as well as any program-specific instructions noted in Section IV. When the program-specific instructions deviate from those in the Application Guide, follow the program-specific instructions. Applications that do not comply with these instructions may be delayed or not accepted for review.

There are several options to submit your application to the agency through Grants.gov. You can use the ASSIST system to prepare, submit and track your application online. You can download an application package from Grants.gov, complete the forms offline, submit the completed forms to Grants.gov and track your application in eRA Commons. Or, you can use other institutional system-to-system solutions to prepare and submit your application to Grants.gov and track your application in eRA Commons. Learn more.

Problems accessing or using ASSIST should be directed to the eRA Service Desk.
Problems downloading forms should be directed to Grants.gov Customer Support.
Table of Contents

Part 1. Overview Information
Part 2. Full Text of the Announcement

Section I. Funding Opportunity Description
Section II. Award Information
Section III. Eligibility Information
Section IV. Application and Submission Information
Section V. Application Review Information
Section VI. Award Administration Information
Section VII. Agency Contacts
Section VIII. Other Information

Part 2. Full Text of Announcement
Section I. Funding Opportunity Description

The purpose of this Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) is to support research projects designed to use sound and innovative strategies to solve specific problems and paradoxes in cancer research identified by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) as the NCI’s Provocative Questions (PQs, http://provocativequestions.nci.nih.gov).

This program covers two companion FOAs of identical scientific scope. This FOA solicits applications for well-developed research projects using the NIH R01 funding mechanism. The companion FOA, RFA-CA-15-009, is a companion announcement for exploratory/developmental projects using the NIH R21 mechanism.

To be responsive to this FOA, each application must specifically address a particular scientific problem identified as one of the PQs listed in this FOA.

Background

The objective of the Provocative Questions Initiative is to stimulate specific areas of cancer research that are understudied, neglected, paradoxical, and/or have been difficult to address in the past. As with past issuances of the program, FOA publication has been preceded by several NCI-sponsored workshops to identify, articulate, and prioritize particularly compelling but understudied problems in cancer research to create a list of PQs.

For the current issuance of the PQ Initiative, there is a new/updated list of 12 PQs. Some of these 12 PQs are new whereas others are refocused relative to the prior lists. These 12 PQs represent diverse fields relevant to cancer research, but all are framed to inspire interested scientists to conceive new approaches and/or feasible solutions. These PQs are not intended to represent the full range of NCI's priorities in cancer research. Rather, they are meant to challenge cancer researchers to think about and elucidate specific problems in key areas of cancer research that are deemed important but have not received sufficient attention.

The Nature of Scientific Problems Underlying PQs

Regardless of topical area, most scientific problems underlying the corresponding PQs fall into one of three broad types:

  • Ignored or neglected cancer-relevant problems that are brought back into focus.  These problems typically relate to intriguing older observations or unresolved issues, for which satisfactory, rigorous research answers may open up qualitatively new research avenues and/or result in substantial progress in a given area.
  • More recent findings that are perplexing or paradoxical, revealing important gaps in current knowledge. Research answers to these problems are expected to have exceptionally high potential to re-shape current key conception and paradigms about cancer. 
  • Problems of recognized high importance that were previously particularly difficult to explore but became more addressable because of recent scientific discoveries and technical advances.

List of PQs for this FOA:

Each application must address one and only one specific PQ from the list below, exactly as defined in this FOA. In order to facilitate the submission and peer-review processes, PQs are numbered 1-12. However, the order of the numbering of questions is arbitrary and should not be construed to indicate any order of priority or funding potential.

1.  For tumors that arise from a pre-malignant field, what properties of cells in this field can be used to design strategies to inhibit the development of future tumors? 

Intent:  This Provocative Question seeks research that would identify changes in histologically normal cells surrounding or within close proximity of a cancer and that were induced in pre-malignant stages of tumor development.  These changes should also be detected in the tumor itself, but not found in truly normal cells of that organ.  Such changes might include, but need not be limited to, mutations, epigenetic alterations, or other detectable biochemical events.  The identified changes could then be used to design therapeutic or preventive interventions to inhibit the development of future tumors, either at this site or in other pre-malignant fields with similar characteristics. Successful applications could be directed to any of the stages of this characterization–target identification–drug development pipeline as long as they rely on characteristics of the pre-malignant field.  In most cases the tissue/cancer type chosen should have a well-documented pre-malignant field (e.g., lung, head & neck, esophageal, colon, or bladder).

Applications that do not explore issues presented in this Intent Statement will be considered nonresponsive to this Provocative Question.

2.  What molecular mechanisms influence disease penetrance in individuals who inherit a cancer susceptibility gene?

Intent: Individuals who carry a mutation in a cancer susceptibility gene, for example individuals with Li-Fraumeni, Cowden, or Lynch Syndrome, have a dramatically increased risk over non-carriers of developing cancer.  This Provocative Question calls for research to determine how the rate of disease penetrance is influenced by various life experiences such as environmental exposure, patient natural history (e.g., abnormal changes in hormone levels), or interactions with other genes/biological pathways.  The intent of this question is to go beyond association studies, which identify factors that change disease penetrance in individuals with an inherited cancer susceptibility gene, and determine the mechanisms that explain how these changes influence disease occurrence.  Mechanistic studies of events that either increase or decrease rates of penetrance are suitable for study.  Preclinical or computational models may also be used to understand how disease penetrance may be altered.

Applications that do not explore issues presented in this Intent Statement will be considered nonresponsive to this Provocative Question.

3.  How do variations in tumor-associated immune responses contribute to differences in cancer risk, incidence, or progression?

Intent: Tumors vary in the extent and character of immune cell infiltration and other tumor-associated immune responses.  These variations may be due to many factors, including differences in heterogeneous variations of the malignant cell phenotype or genotype or in the potential range of immune responses seen when comparing individuals or populations. This Provocative Question asks scientists to propose research into the causes of variable tumor-associated immune responses and/or how these variations relate to cancer risk, incidence, or progression.  Successful applications might range from mechanistic studies that attempt to understand how tumor-associated immune responses can contribute to cancer development in an individual to studies of how population-based differences in immune traits (e.g., across such populations as racial/ethnic groups or various age groups) might explain variations in cancer risk, incidence, or progression.

Applications that do not explore issues presented in this Intent Statement will be considered nonresponsive to this Provocative Question.

4.  Why do some closely related tissues exhibit dramatically different cancer incidence?

Intent: The same organ site can develop different types of cancers (e.g., adeno- versus squamous carcinoma).  In contrast, many tissues with closely related developmental histories have wide variations in cancer incidence (e.g., left versus right colon cancers, seminal vesicle versus prostate, etc.). This Provocative Question seeks research applications that will explain the molecular mechanisms that account for different rates of cancer development among closely related tissues.

Applications that do not explore issues presented in this Intent Statement will be considered nonresponsive to this Provocative Question.

5.  How does mitochondrial heterogeneity influence tumorigenesis or progression?

Intent: Mitochondria within one cell, among closely related cells, or between different individuals can display heterogeneity in mtDNA sequences, dynamic spatial and communication patterns, and functional capacities.  This Provocative Question asks researchers to propose mechanistic studies that will characterize how mitochondrial variation within individual tumor cells, among cells within tumor microenvironment(s), or in the same cell types from different individuals influences tumorigenesis or progression.  How do these differences vary over time and how do they alter or contribute to tumor development, adaptation, or response to therapy?  Successful applications will examine how key aspects of mitochondrial heterogeneity contribute to important steps in tumor development and phenotypic plasticity.

Applications that do not explore issues presented in this Intent Statement will be considered nonresponsive to this Provocative Question.

6.  What are the underlying molecular mechanisms that are responsible for the functional differences between benign proliferative diseases and premalignant states?

Intent: Different populations of cells that continue to proliferate in inappropriate settings or at inappropriate times can pose variable risks to human health.  Some cell populations will continue to divide over a lifetime (e.g., ductal hyperplasias, benign lipomas, or papillomas) but pose no or little risk of advancing to malignancy, while other populations will progress to cancer with higher frequency (e.g., adenomas changing to adenocarcinomas).  This Provocative Question seeks to stimulate research that will compare the range of these states and determine the underlying molecular and cellular regulatory mechanisms that distinguish these populations.  

Applications that do not explore issues presented in this Intent Statement will be considered nonresponsive to this Provocative Question.

7.  What in vivo imaging methods can be developed to determine and record the identity, quantity, and location of each of the different cell types that contribute to the heterogeneity of a tumor and its microenvironment?

Intent: The demonstration of the extensive heterogeneity of cell types within a tumor and its microenvironment is one of the most intriguing research surprises of the last decade.  This heterogeneity includes variations in the tumor cells within a single cancer, extensive differences among tumor cells from similar cancers that arise from the same tissue of origin, and in the variety of associated cells found in the tumor microenvironment, which range from stromal cells to endothelial cells to infiltrating immune cells of many different types. This heterogeneity contributes to a multitude of tumor behaviors and is thought to be one of the reasons that tumors pose such a complicated therapeutic challenge.  This Provocative Question seeks the development of new in vivo imaging methods to allow the rapid identification, quantitation, and location of the different cell types within a tumor and its microenvironment.  Work at any stage of technical development of imaging methods in the pursuit of these goals is appropriate.  Development and validation of imaging methods for various subsets of cell types for the purpose of building a complete set in future work is also considered responsive.

Applications that do not explore issues presented in this Intent Statement will be considered nonresponsive to this Provocative Question.

8.  What cancer models or other approaches can be developed to study clinically stable disease and the subsequent transition to progressive disease?

Intent: What biological mechanisms keep some cancers in a stable state and how do we study the transitions from stable to progressive disease?  In this Provocative Question we seek the development of new models or approaches to foster the study of both the stable state — including but not necessarily limited to dormant or indolent tumors as well as those meeting the Response Evaluation Criteria in Solid Tumors (RECIST) definition for stable disease — and the progression of such tumors to more aggressive phenotypes.  These new approaches might take advantage of advances in various preclinical models or strategies, combinations of biological and computational models, or other approaches that could help us understand the biology of these important stable states.  Studies of tumors that are held in stasis by continued drug treatment are not responsive to this request and will not be considered for funding.

Applications that do not explore issues presented in this Intent Statement will be considered nonresponsive to this Provocative Question.

9.  What are the molecular and/or cellular mechanisms that underlie the development of cancer therapy-induced severe adverse sequelae? 

Intent: While many acute toxicities can be adequately managed during cancer therapy (e.g., febrile neutropenia, acute nausea and vomiting) and will resolve once therapy has been completed (e.g., mucositis), there are other adverse sequelae that persist after completion of therapy and for which there are no effective management strategies. These include, but are not limited to, therapy-induced peripheral neuropathy, neurocognitive impairments, cardiovascular toxicity, pulmonary fibrosis, arthralgias, and immune system-related adverse events. This Provocative Question seeks research that will (1) identify novel mechanisms that induce such chronic sequelae, (2) apply the knowledge gained from understanding these mechanisms to facilitate design of new treatments (or approaches) that may decrease or reverse adverse cancer therapy effects, or (3) facilitate mechanism-based design of new cancer therapies that are expected to show decreased adverse effects when compared with existing therapies.  Such studies may be performed in pre-clinical, non-clinical, and/or clinical settings. Successful applications must focus on adverse therapy related sequelae (whether immediate or delayed in onset) for which current management or treatment strategies are limited or ineffective.

Applications that do not explore issues presented in this Intent Statement will be considered nonresponsive to this Provocative Question.

10.  How do microbiota affect the response to cancer therapies?

Intent: This Provocative Question seeks grant applications that use our increasing knowledge of the normal human microbiota to understand how these organisms or their secreted products affect cancer therapies. Approaches may include studies that focus on effects of the changing microbiota within an individual patient undergoing treatment or among different patients undergoing identical therapy but with different outcomes.  Analogous studies in pre-clinical models are also invited.  Key aspects of study might include either how the microbiota alter the composition, concentration, stability, or effectiveness of standard or experimental classes of therapies, or the identification and study of microbial regulatory mechanisms that mediate these changes.

Applications that do not explore issues presented in this Intent Statement will be considered  nonresponsive to this Provocative Question.

11. What mechanisms of action of standard-of-care cytotoxic, radiologic, or targeted therapies affect the efficacy of immunotherapy? 

Intent: With the increasing and successful use of immunotherapy in cancer treatment, many investigators have begun to consider approaches that combine standard of care treatments, such as chemotherapy, radiotherapy, or targeted therapy for a particular tumor, with immunotherapy.  Standard of care is defined as a treatment that is accepted by medical experts as a proper treatment for a certain type of disease and that is widely used by healthcare professionals.  There may be more than one standard of care for any individual cancer type. Cancer immunotherapy encompasses a wide range of treatment modalities that harness the anti-tumor effects of the immune system, and the factors that influence the efficacy of immunotherapy alone are becoming understood.  However, there is a lack of information on their effects when used in combination with standard of care interventions. This Provocative Question seeks new investigations that will define molecular or cellular mechanisms for enhancements, antagonisms, or toxicities that occur when cancer immunotherapy and standard of care treatments are used in combination (either sequentially or concomitantly) as compared to when cancer immunotherapy is used alone.

Applications that do not explore issues presented in this Intent Statement will be considered nonresponsive to this Provocative Question.

12.  What methods and approaches induce physicians and health systems to abandon ineffective interventions or discourage adoption of unproven interventions? 

Intent: Well-intentioned efforts to speed diffusion of research results into practice may result in the adoption of new treatments and approaches to care before their effectiveness has been documented.  Multiple studies have documented the continued use of some medical treatments and approaches to cancer care known to be ineffective.  This Provocative Question seeks hypothesis-driven studies that explicitly examine how physicians and/or health systems can be induced to diminish delivery of ineffective or unproven cancer care.  Responsive applications may, for example, involve the study of natural experiments, such as changes in reimbursement or institutional policy, or the development and testing of interventions targeted at providers or delivery systems. Studies focused on patient factors or including interventions involving only patients are not responsive to this question.

Applications that do not explore issues presented in this Intent Statement will be considered  nonresponsive to this Provocative Question.

Specific Requirements

Scientific Scope. The collective scientific scope of this FOA is defined by the list of PQs. These PQs define research areas appropriate for this FOA. They should NOT be construed as examples of specific topics. The scientific scope of each individual application must clearly and distinctly correspond to one (and only one) of the PQs listed above. Within an area defined by a given PQ, applicants may propose and pursue any topic they deem relevant as a "research answer" to that PQ. It is important, however, that applicants carefully read the Intent Statement for each PQ. Additional information for each PQ pertaining to context, background, feasibility, and expectations of needs to be accomplished for a successful solving of the problem is available on the Provocative Questions web site (provocativequestions.nci.nih.gov). 

Individual Goals. Within the research area defined by a specific PQ chosen, the overarching goal of the proposed research project must be an attempt to provide definitive, comprehensive, and thorough research answers to the problem or portions of the problem presented by that question. The proposed research solutions are expected to be creative and highly original with a high potential for transformative impact on current concepts and paradigms in cancer research.

Within this general requirement, specific topics for the proposed investigations, strategies, priority directions, and other details of study design and execution are left to the discretion, originality, and creativity of the applicants. The creativity and originality (combined with scientific rigor) are particularly important, given that the areas identified by the individual PQs are generally understudied. Therefore, the applicants have the full freedom to identify the most promising direction(s) to address the selected PQ, formulate Specific Aims, choose optimal experimental approaches, and adapt appropriate specific benchmarks as measures of accomplishing the overarching goal of the project. It is expected that these specific benchmarks will be in line with the Intent Statement for the selected PQ.

Original Rigorous Concepts versus Preliminary Data. In general, the R01 funding mechanism is used for research projects for which research approaches, methodologies, and background information are well established and usually documented by extensive preliminary data from researchers’ laboratories. The requirement for well-developed projects extends to this FOA.

However, it is realized that for many of the PQs there could be gaps in background information and original preliminary data may be scarce or difficult to obtain beforehand. Since the intention of this FOA is, by definition, to exploit understudied areas, the emphasis is on the novelty and significance of the concepts to be explored with a relaxed requirement for preliminary data. These concepts must be original but also rigorous in terms of integrating to the extent possible the available incomplete information for a given area from various sources. Reviewers will assess both aspects jointly; if the conceptual aspects of the proposed project are viewed as exceptionally strong, applicants will not be penalized for some gaps in the preliminary data. The focus of the FOA is definitely on the "power of the ideas" (but combined with rigorous plans to validate those ideas).

Non-Responsive Projects

The following types of projects will be considered non-responsive to this FOA, and applications proposing such projects will not be reviewed:

  • Applications that fail to choose a specific PQ from the list above, address more than one PQ within a single application, and/or re-write a PQ. Applicants wishing to address more than one PQ may do so by submitting separate applications.
  • Applications that do not explore issues presented in the Intent Statement for the selected PQ.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Applicants uncertain as to whether their intended project meets the requirements of this FOA are encouraged to contact the Scientific/Research Contact listed below in Section VII. 

Section II. Award Information
Funding Instrument

Grant: A support mechanism providing money, property, or both to an eligible entity to carry out an approved project or activity.

Application Types Allowed

New  
Resubmission (applies only to applications originally submitted in response to this FOA)

The OER Glossary and the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide provide details on these application types.

Funds Available and Anticipated Number of Awards

The number of awards is contingent upon NIH appropriations and the submission of a sufficient number of meritorious applications.

The NCI intends to fund approximately 30-40 R01 awards, corresponding to a total of up to $15 million, for fiscal year 2016, and an equivalent amount for FY2017. Future year amounts will depend on annual appropriations.

Award Budget

Application budgets are not limited but need to reflect the actual needs of the proposed project.

Award Project Period

The total project period may not exceed 5 years.      

NIH grants policies as described in the NIH Grants Policy Statement will apply to the applications submitted and awards made in response to this FOA.

Section III. Eligibility Information
1. Eligible Applicants
Eligible Organizations

Higher Education Institutions

  • Public/State Controlled Institutions of Higher Education
  • Private Institutions of Higher Education

The following types of Higher Education Institutions are always encouraged to apply for NIH support as Public or Private Institutions of Higher Education:

    • Hispanic-serving Institutions
    • Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)
    • Tribally Controlled Colleges and Universities (TCCUs)
    • Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian Serving Institutions
    • Asian American Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institutions (AANAPISIs)

Nonprofits Other Than Institutions of Higher Education

  • Nonprofits with 501(c)(3) IRS Status (Other than Institutions of Higher Education)
  • Nonprofits without 501(c)(3) IRS Status (Other than Institutions of Higher Education)

For-Profit Organizations

  • Small Businesses
  • For-Profit Organizations (Other than Small Businesses)

Governments

  • State Governments
  • County Governments
  • Eligible Agencies of the Federal Government
  • U.S. Territory or Possession

Other

  • Non-domestic (non-U.S.) Entities (Foreign Institutions)
Foreign Institutions

Non-domestic (non-U.S.) Entities (Foreign Institutions) are eligible to apply.
Non-domestic (non-U.S.) components of U.S. Organizations are eligible to apply.
Foreign components, as defined in the NIH Grants Policy Statement, are allowed.

Required Registrations

Applicant Organizations

Applicant organizations must complete and maintain the following registrations as described in the SF 424 (R&R) Application Guide to be eligible to apply for or receive an award. All registrations must be completed prior to the application being submitted. Registration can take 6 weeks or more, so applicants should begin the registration process as soon as possible. The NIH Policy on Late Submission of Grant Applications states that failure to complete registrations in advance of a due date is not a valid reason for a late submission.

  • Dun and Bradstreet Universal Numbering System (DUNS) - All registrations require that applicants be issued a DUNS number. After obtaining a DUNS number, applicants can begin both SAM and eRA Commons registrations. The same DUNS number must be used for all registrations, as well as on the grant application.
  • System for Award Management (SAM) (formerly CCR) – Applicants must complete and maintain an active registration, which requires renewal at least annually. The renewal process may require as much time as the initial registration. SAM registration includes the assignment of a Commercial and Government Entity (CAGE) Code for domestic organizations which have not already been assigned a CAGE Code.
  • eRA Commons - Applicants must have an active DUNS number and SAM registration in order to complete the eRA Commons registration. Organizations can register with the eRA Commons as they are working through their SAM or Grants.gov registration. eRA Commons requires organizations to identify at least one Signing Official (SO) and at least one Program Director/Principal Investigator (PD/PI) account in order to submit an application.
  • Grants.gov – Applicants must have an active DUNS number and SAM registration in order to complete the Grants.gov registration.

Program Directors/Principal Investigators (PD(s)/PI(s))

All PD(s)/PI(s) must have an eRA Commons account.  PD(s)/PI(s) should work with their organizational officials to either create a new account or to affiliate their existing account with the applicant organization in eRA Commons. If the PD/PI is also the organizational Signing Official, they must have two distinct eRA Commons accounts, one for each role. Obtaining an eRA Commons account can take up to 2 weeks.

Eligible Individuals (Program Director/Principal Investigator)

Any individual(s) with the skills, knowledge, and resources necessary to carry out the proposed research as the Program Director(s)/Principal Investigator(s) (PD(s)/PI(s)) is invited to work with his/her organization to develop an application for support. Individuals from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups as well as individuals with disabilities are always encouraged to apply for NIH support.

For institutions/organizations proposing multiple PDs/PIs, visit the Multiple Program Director/Principal Investigator Policy and submission details in the Senior/Key Person Profile (Expanded) Component of the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide.

2. Cost Sharing

This FOA does not require cost sharing as defined in the NIH Grants Policy Statement.

3. Additional Information on Eligibility
Number of Applications

Applicant organizations may submit more than one application, provided that each application is scientifically distinct.

The NIH will not accept duplicate or highly overlapping applications under review at the same time.  This means that the NIH will not accept:

  • A new (A0) application that is submitted before issuance of the summary statement from the review of an overlapping new (A0) or resubmission (A1) application.
  • A resubmission (A1) application that is submitted before issuance of the summary statement from the review of the previous new (A0) application.
  • An application that has substantial overlap with another application pending appeal of initial peer review (see NOT-OD-11-101).
Section IV. Application and Submission Information
1. Requesting an Application Package

Applicants must download the SF424 (R&R) application package associated with this funding opportunity using the “Apply for Grant Electronically” button in this FOA or following the directions provided at Grants.gov.

2. Content and Form of Application Submission

It is critical that applicants follow the instructions in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide, including Supplemental Grant Application Instructions except where instructed in this funding opportunity announcement to do otherwise. Conformance to the requirements in the Application Guide is required and strictly enforced. Applications that are out of compliance with these instructions may be delayed or not accepted for review.

For information on Application Submission and Receipt, visit Frequently Asked Questions – Application Guide, Electronic Submission of Grant Applications.

Letter of Intent

Although a letter of intent is not required, is not binding, and does not enter into the review of a subsequent application, the information that it contains allows IC staff to estimate the potential review workload and plan the review.

By the date listed in Part 1. Overview Information, prospective applicants are asked to submit a letter of intent that includes the following information:

  • Descriptive title of proposed activity
  • Name(s), address(es), and telephone number(s) of the PD(s)/PI(s)
  • Names of other key personnel
  • Participating institution(s)
  • Number and title of this funding opportunity

The letter of intent should be sent to:

Emily J Greenspan, Ph.D.
Office of the Director
National Cancer Institute
Telephone: 301-496-1045
Email: greenspanej@mail.nih.gov

Page Limitations

All page limitations described in the SF424 Application Guide and the Table of Page Limits must be followed.

Instructions for Application Submission

The following section supplements the instructions found in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide and should be used for preparing an application to this FOA.

SF424(R&R) Cover

All instructions in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide must be followed.

Descriptive Title of Applicant's Project: All application titles must begin with the PQ number on which the application is based (insert PQ number at the beginning of the title in parenthesis).

SF424(R&R) Project/Performance Site Locations

All instructions in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide must be followed.  

SF424(R&R) Other Project Information

All instructions in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide must be followed.

Facilities and Other Resources: If applicable, explain any extraordinary aspects and/or resources at your disposal that provide novel or enhanced opportunities to investigate the selected PQ in a way that would not be possible elsewhere even in generally excellent scientific environments. For example, such elements may include any unique, newly developed/acquired technical capabilities (without which the project could not be proposed) that are not available anywhere else.

SF424(R&R) Senior/Key Person Profile

All instructions in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide must be followed. 

R&R or Modular Budget

All instructions in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide must be followed.

R&R Subaward Budget

All instructions in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide must be followed.

PHS 398 Cover Page Supplement

All instructions in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide must be followed.  

PHS 398 Research Plan

All instructions in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide must be followed, with the following additional instructions: 

Specific Aims: This section must address the expected overall impact of the project outcomes in terms of breadth and magnitude on cancer research.

Research Strategy: This section must contain (place at the beginning of the section and within the standard page limits) the following element:

Provocative Question (PQ) Choice. Identify one (and only one) specific PQ from the list that is being addressed in the proposed project and briefly describe how you propose to provide an answer to the selected PQ using conceptually original but also rigorous strategy.

Use the standard Research Strategy subsections (Significance, Innovation, and Approach) to describe the proposed project. This description should address also all the specific aspects listed below.

  • Explain the likelihood that the project will yield far- or broad-reaching advances in the understanding of the research problem defined by the selected PQ.
  • For high-risk projects: indicate the potential benefits that would justify taking high risks.
  • Explain the originality of the concepts and/or proposed research directions relative to any ongoing work and point to other creative, innovative aspects that go beyond simply taking the next logical step.
  • Outline the strategy to optimize the experimental design to ensure generation of informative results for the selected PQ (ideally, even negative results should be informative).

Resource Sharing Plan: Individuals are required to comply with the instructions for the Resource Sharing Plans as provided in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide, with the following modification:

  • All applications, regardless of the amount of direct costs requested for any one year, should address a Data Sharing Plan.

Appendix:  Do not use the Appendix to circumvent page limits. Follow all instructions for the Appendix as described in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide.

Planned Enrollment Report

When conducting clinical research, follow all instructions for completing Planned Enrollment Reports as described in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide. 

PHS 398 Cumulative Inclusion Enrollment Report

When conducting clinical research, follow all instructions for completing Cumulative Inclusion Enrollment Report as described in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide.

Foreign Institutions

Foreign (non-U.S.) institutions must follow policies described in the NIH Grants Policy Statement, and procedures for foreign institutions described throughout the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide.

3. Submission Dates and Times

Part I. Overview Information contains information about Key Dates. Applicants are encouraged to submit applications before the due date to ensure they have time to make any application corrections that might be necessary for successful submission.

Organizations must submit applications to Grants.gov (the online portal to find and apply for grants across all Federal agencies). Applicants must then complete the submission process by tracking the status of the application in the eRA Commons, NIH’s electronic system for grants administration. NIH and Grants.gov systems check the application against many of the application instructions upon submission. Errors must be corrected and a changed/corrected application must be submitted to Grants.gov on or before the application due date.  If a Changed/Corrected application is submitted after the deadline, the application will be considered late.

Applicants are responsible for viewing their application before the due date in the eRA Commons to ensure accurate and successful submission.

Information on the submission process and a definition of on-time submission are provided in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide.

4. Intergovernmental Review (E.O. 12372)

This initiative is not subject to intergovernmental review.

5. Funding Restrictions

All NIH awards are subject to the terms and conditions, cost principles, and other considerations described in the NIH Grants Policy Statement.

Pre-award costs are allowable only as described in the NIH Grants Policy Statement.

6. Other Submission Requirements and Information

Applications must be submitted electronically following the instructions described in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide.  Paper applications will not be accepted.

Applicants must complete all required registrations before the application due date. Section III. Eligibility Information contains information about registration.

For assistance with your electronic application or for more information on the electronic submission process, visit Applying Electronically. If you encounter a system issue beyond your control that threatens your ability to complete the submission process on-time, you must follow the Guidelines for Applicants Experiencing System Issues.

Important reminders:

All PD(s)/PI(s) must include their eRA Commons ID in the Credential field of the Senior/Key Person Profile Component of the SF424(R&R) Application Package. Failure to register in the Commons and to include a valid PD/PI Commons ID in the credential field will prevent the successful submission of an electronic application to NIH. See Section III of this FOA for information on registration requirements.

The applicant organization must ensure that the DUNS number it provides on the application is the same number used in the organization’s profile in the eRA Commons and for the System for Award Management. Additional information may be found in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide.

See more tips for avoiding common errors.

Upon receipt, applications will be evaluated for completeness and compliance with application instructions by the Center for Scientific Review and responsiveness by NCI, NIH. Applications that are incomplete, non-compliant and/or nonresponsive will not be reviewed.

Applicants are required to follow the instructions for post-submission materials, as described in NOT-OD-13-030.

Section V. Application Review Information

Important Update: See NOT-OD-16-006 and NOT-OD-16-011 for updated review language for applications for due dates on or after January 25, 2016.

1. Criteria

Only the review criteria described below will be considered in the review process. As part of the NIH mission, all applications submitted to the NIH in support of biomedical and behavioral research are evaluated for scientific and technical merit through the NIH peer review system.

For this particular announcement, note the following:

Even though this FOA uses the R01 funding mechanism, there are important differences with conventional R01 applications in emphasis on specific aspects. To be viewed as having potential high impact, the proposed research projects, as designed, must be likely to yield far- or broad-reaching advances in the understanding of the research problem defined by the selected PQ. Thus, potential impact of the applications will be judged in large part on the power of the ideas behind the proposed research, whereas the completeness of preliminary data, required for conventional R01 applications, is de-emphasized for this FOA.

Overall Impact

Reviewers will provide an overall impact score to reflect their assessment of the likelihood for the project to exert a sustained, powerful influence on the research field(s) involved, in consideration of the following review criteria and additional review criteria (as applicable for the project proposed).

Scored Review Criteria

Reviewers will consider each of the review criteria below in the determination of scientific merit, and give a separate score for each. An application does not need to be strong in all categories to be judged likely to have major scientific impact. For example, a project that by its nature is not innovative may be essential to advance a field.

Significance

Does the project address an important problem or a critical barrier to progress in the field? If the aims of the project are achieved, how will scientific knowledge, technical capability, and/or clinical practice be improved? How will successful completion of the aims change the concepts, methods, technologies, treatments, services, or preventative interventions that drive this field?

Specific to this FOA: To what extent is this research project, as designed, likely to yield far- or broad-reaching advances in our understanding of the selected PQ? 

Investigator(s)

Are the PD(s)/PI(s), collaborators, and other researchers well suited to the project? If Early Stage Investigators or New Investigators, or in the early stages of independent careers, do they have appropriate experience and training? If established, have they demonstrated an ongoing record of accomplishments that have advanced their field(s)? If the project is collaborative or multi-PD/PI, do the investigators have complementary and integrated expertise; are their leadership approach, governance and organizational structure appropriate for the project?   

Innovation

Does the application challenge and seek to shift current research or clinical practice paradigms by utilizing novel theoretical concepts, approaches or methodologies, instrumentation, or interventions? Are the concepts, approaches or methodologies, instrumentation, or interventions novel to one field of research or novel in a broad sense? Is a refinement, improvement, or new application of theoretical concepts, approaches or methodologies, instrumentation, or interventions proposed?

Specific to this FOA: Does the proposed project provide opportunity for novel findings that would be informative as answers for the selected PQ? For high risk projects, is the potential for benefit justifiably high? In cases where the proposed project is an extension of ongoing work, does it address truly original concepts and/or research directions not covered by the ongoing work and/or use preliminary data in a creative, innovative way rather than simply taking the next logical step?  

Approach

Are the overall strategy, methodology, and analyses well-reasoned and appropriate to accomplish the specific aims of the project? Are potential problems, alternative strategies, and benchmarks for success presented? If the project is in the early stages of development, will the strategy establish feasibility and will particularly risky aspects be managed? 

Specific to this FOA: Is the experimental design optimal to ensure generation of important information for the selected PQ? If negative results are obtained, how likely is it that these results will be informative for our understanding of the selected PQ? Do the applicants propose a conceptually original and rigorous strategy to solve the problem defined by the selected PQ? If supporting preliminary data are limited or incomplete, how well are such gaps compensated by exceptional strength of conceptual aspects?

If the project involves human subjects and/or NIH-defined clinical research, are the plans to address 1) the protection of human subjects from research risks, and 2) inclusion (or exclusion) of individuals on the basis of sex/gender, race, and ethnicity, as well as the inclusion or exclusion of children, justified in terms of the scientific goals and research strategy proposed?  

Environment

Will the scientific environment in which the work will be done contribute to the probability of success? Are the institutional support, equipment and other physical resources available to the investigators adequate for the project proposed? Will the project benefit from unique features of the scientific environment, subject populations, or collaborative arrangements? 

Specific to this FOA: Are there any extraordinary aspects and/or resources that provide novel or enhanced opportunities to investigate the selected PQ in a way that would not be possible elsewhere even in generally excellent scientific environments? For example, are there any unique, newly developed/acquired technical capabilities (without which the project could not be proposed) that are not available anywhere else? 

Additional Review Criteria

As applicable for the project proposed, reviewers will evaluate the following additional items while determining scientific and technical merit, and in providing an overall impact score, but will not give separate scores for these items.

Protections for Human Subjects

For research that involves human subjects but does not involve one of the six categories of research that are exempt under 45 CFR Part 46, the committee will evaluate the justification for involvement of human subjects and the proposed protections from research risk relating to their participation according to the following five review criteria: 1) risk to subjects, 2) adequacy of protection against risks, 3) potential benefits to the subjects and others, 4) importance of the knowledge to be gained, and 5) data and safety monitoring for clinical trials.

For research that involves human subjects and meets the criteria for one or more of the six categories of research that are exempt under 45 CFR Part 46, the committee will evaluate: 1) the justification for the exemption, 2) human subjects involvement and characteristics, and 3) sources of materials. For additional information on review of the Human Subjects section, please refer to the Guidelines for the Review of Human Subjects.

Inclusion of Women, Minorities, and Children 

When the proposed project involves human subjects and/or NIH-defined clinical research, the committee will evaluate the proposed plans for the inclusion (or exclusion) of individuals on the basis of sex/gender, race, and ethnicity, as well as the inclusion (or exclusion) of children to determine if it is justified in terms of the scientific goals and research strategy proposed. For additional information on review of the Inclusion section, please refer to the Guidelines for the Review of Inclusion in Clinical Research.

Vertebrate Animals

The committee will evaluate the involvement of live vertebrate animals as part of the scientific assessment according to the following five points: 1) proposed use of the animals, and species, strains, ages, sex, and numbers to be used; 2) justifications for the use of animals and for the appropriateness of the species and numbers proposed; 3) adequacy of veterinary care; 4) procedures for limiting discomfort, distress, pain and injury to that which is unavoidable in the conduct of scientifically sound research including the use of analgesic, anesthetic, and tranquilizing drugs and/or comfortable restraining devices; and 5) methods of euthanasia and reason for selection if not consistent with the AVMA Guidelines on Euthanasia. For additional information on review of the Vertebrate Animals section, please refer to the Worksheet for Review of the Vertebrate Animal Section.

Biohazards

Reviewers will assess whether materials or procedures proposed are potentially hazardous to research personnel and/or the environment, and if needed, determine whether adequate protection is proposed.

Resubmissions

For Resubmissions, the committee will evaluate the application as now presented, taking into consideration the responses to comments from the previous scientific review group and changes made to the project.

Renewals

Not Applicable

Revisions

Not Applicable

Additional Review Considerations

As applicable for the project proposed, reviewers will consider each of the following items, but will not give scores for these items, and should not consider them in providing an overall impact score.

Applications from Foreign Organizations

Reviewers will assess whether the project presents special opportunities for furthering research programs through the use of unusual talent, resources, populations, or environmental conditions that exist in other countries and either are not readily available in the United States or augment existing U.S. resources.

Select Agent Research

Reviewers will assess the information provided in this section of the application, including 1) the Select Agent(s) to be used in the proposed research, 2) the registration status of all entities where Select Agent(s) will be used, 3) the procedures that will be used to monitor possession use and transfer of Select Agent(s), and 4) plans for appropriate biosafety, biocontainment, and security of the Select Agent(s).

Resource Sharing Plans

Reviewers will comment on whether the following Resource Sharing Plans, or the rationale for not sharing the following types of resources, are reasonable: 1) Data Sharing Plan; 2) Sharing Model Organisms; and 3) Genomic Wide Association Studies (GWAS) /Genomic Data Sharing Plan.

Budget and Period of Support

Reviewers will consider whether the budget and the requested period of support are fully justified and reasonable in relation to the proposed research.

2. Review and Selection Process

Applications will be evaluated for scientific and technical merit by (an) appropriate Scientific Review Group(s) convened by the NCI, in accordance with NIH peer review policy and procedures, using the stated review criteria. Assignment to a Scientific Review Group will be shown in the eRA Commons.

As part of the scientific peer review, all applications:

  • Will undergo a selection process in which only those applications deemed to have the highest scientific and technical merit (generally the top half of applications under review) will be discussed and assigned an overall impact score.
  • Will receive a written critique.

Appeals of initial peer review will not be accepted for applications submitted in response to this FOA.

Applications will be assigned on the basis of established PHS referral guidelines to the appropriate NIH Institute or Center. Applications will compete for available funds with all other recommended applications submitted in response to this FOA. Following initial peer review, recommended applications will receive a second level of review by the National Cancer Advisory Board. The following will be considered in making funding decisions:

  • Scientific and technical merit of the proposed project as determined by scientific peer review.
  • Availability of funds.
  • Relevance of the proposed project to program priorities.
3. Anticipated Announcement and Award Dates

After the peer review of the application is completed, the PD/PI will be able to access his or her Summary Statement (written critique) via the eRA Commons

Information regarding the disposition of applications is available in the NIH Grants Policy Statement.

Section VI. Award Administration Information
1. Award Notices

If the application is under consideration for funding, NIH will request "just-in-time" information from the applicant as described in the NIH Grants Policy Statement.

A formal notification in the form of a Notice of Award (NoA) will be provided to the applicant organization for successful applications. The NoA signed by the grants management officer is the authorizing document and will be sent via email to the grantee’s business official.

Awardees must comply with any funding restrictions described in Section IV.5. Funding Restrictions. Selection of an application for award is not an authorization to begin performance. Any costs incurred before receipt of the NoA are at the recipient's risk. These costs may be reimbursed only to the extent considered allowable pre-award costs.

Any application awarded in response to this FOA will be subject to terms and conditions found on the Award Conditions and Information for NIH Grants website.  This includes any recent legislation and policy applicable to awards that is highlighted on this website.

2. Administrative and National Policy Requirements

All NIH grant and cooperative agreement awards include the NIH Grants Policy Statement as part of the NoA. For these terms of award, see the NIH Grants Policy Statement Part II: Terms and Conditions of NIH Grant Awards, Subpart A: General  and Part II: Terms and Conditions of NIH Grant Awards, Subpart B: Terms and Conditions for Specific Types of Grants, Grantees, and Activities. More information is provided at Award Conditions and Information for NIH Grants.

Cooperative Agreement Terms and Conditions of Award

Not Applicable

3. Reporting

When multiple years are involved, awardees will be required to submit the Research Performance Progress Report (RPPR) annually and financial statements as required in the NIH Grants Policy Statement.

A final progress report, invention statement, and the expenditure data portion of the Federal Financial Report are required for closeout of an award, as described in the NIH Grants Policy Statement.

The Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006 (Transparency Act), includes a requirement for awardees of Federal grants to report information about first-tier subawards and executive compensation under Federal assistance awards issued in FY2011 or later.  All awardees of applicable NIH grants and cooperative agreements are required to report to the Federal Subaward Reporting System (FSRS) available at www.fsrs.gov on all subawards over $25,000.  See the NIH Grants Policy Statement for additional information on this reporting requirement.

Section VII. Agency Contacts

We encourage inquiries concerning this funding opportunity and welcome the opportunity to answer questions from potential applicants.

Application Submission Contacts

eRA Service Desk (Questions regarding ASSIST, eRA Commons registration, submitting and tracking an application, documenting system problems that threaten submission by the due date, post submission issues)
Telephone: 301-402-7469 or 866-504-9552 (Toll Free)
Finding Help Online: http://grants.nih.gov/support/index.html
Email: commons@od.nih.gov

Grants.gov Customer Support (Questions regarding Grants.gov registration and submission, downloading forms and application packages)
Contact CenterTelephone: 800-518-4726
Web ticketing system: https://grants-portal.psc.gov/ContactUs.aspx
Email: support@grants.gov

GrantsInfo (Questions regarding application instructions and process, finding NIH grant resources)
Email: GrantsInfo@nih.gov (preferred method of contact)
Telephone: 301-435-0714

Scientific/Research Contact(s)

Emily J. Greenspan, Ph.D.
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Telephone: 301-496-1045
Email: greenspanej@mail.nih.gov

Peer Review Contact(s)

Referral Officer
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Telephone: 240-276-6390
Email: ncirefof@dea.nci.nih.gov

Financial/Grants Management Contact(s)

Crystal Wolfrey
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Telephone: 240-276-6277
Email: wolfreyc@mail.nih.gov

Section VIII. Other Information

Recently issued trans-NIH policy notices may affect your application submission. A full list of policy notices published by NIH is provided in the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts. All awards are subject to the terms and conditions, cost principles, and other considerations described in the NIH Grants Policy Statement.

Authority and Regulations

Awards are made under the authorization of Sections 301 and 405 of the Public Health Service Act as amended (42 USC 241 and 284) and under Federal Regulations 42 CFR Part 52 and 45 CFR Part 75.

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