Announcement by NCI of Intent to Release a Request for Applications for Network for Translational Research in Optical Imaging (NTROI)

Notice Number: NOT-CA-07-021

Key Dates
Release Date: August 23, 2007

Issued by
National Cancer Institute (NCI) (


The National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Imaging Program announces the forthcoming reissuance of the Request for Applications (RFA) for the Network for Translational Research in Optical Imaging (NTROI). The reissue of the NTROI RFA has been approved by the NCI Board of Scientific Advisors, as an open competition. A total of $24 million in NCI funding has been set aside for the NTROI program over a 5-year period.

The new RFA is expected to be published in the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts in September 2007 as RFA-CA-08-002 (Note: link will become active only after RFA release). This RFA will support a continuation of the NTROI program previously initiated under RFA-CA-03-002, which was released on August 27, 2002.  The NTROI program will continue to involve use of the NIH U54 cooperative agreement funding mechanism.

The reissued NTROI program will support inter-disciplinary, multi-institutional research teams to develop, optimize, validate, and translate imaging technology platforms and methods. The teams will be linked into a network to facilitate sharing of ideas and methods. Goals are expanded from those of the original NTROI program with updated strategies to incorporate a broad set of emerging imaging platforms that include multi-modal imaging systems, with emphasis on consensus validation, rather than development, of such platforms.

To be eligible, prospective applicants must form a team of researchers from at least two different institutions and propose to integrate and validate at least one multi-modal imaging platform in which at least one imaging or spectroscopic system is based on an optical technique. Industrial participation is encouraged because the intent is to translate these platforms into clinical settings, with progression to commercial systems as potential outcomes.

As a result of the reissuance of the planned RFA, the NCI anticipates selection of four research teams through an open competition application process.

APPLICATIONS ARE NOT BEING SOLICITED AT THIS TIME. However, this Notice is to encourage investigators with appropriate backgrounds and capabilities to pro-actively plan to submit applications in response to the forthcoming RFA.

A pre-submission meeting will be scheduled in or near Bethesda, Maryland, approximately 1 month after publication of the RFA in the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts. The exact date for submission of applications has not yet been determined. Details for this meeting will be published in another Notice in the NIH Guide to Grants and Contracts and will also be announced on the Cancer Imaging Program web site at


The field of in vivo imaging uses a number of technologies that differ widely, e.g., in their physical principles, types of molecular probes employed, and/or other fundamental aspects. Whereas each individual technology has specific strengths and weaknesses, advances in imaging and spectroscopy today increasingly include combinations of imaging techniques to create multi-modality imaging platforms. Examples include PET-CT, PET-MRI, and MRI-Ultrasound. The NTROI program will require each team to include one primary project that combines an optical method for molecular, functional, and/or anatomical imaging or spectroscopy with other complementary imaging or spectroscopic technologies.

The complexities of integrating these imaging suites are offset by the potential for increased performance in terms of sensitivity and specificity for screening, diagnosis, image-guided intervention, and treatment monitoring. There is a need to develop methods for the physical characterization, validation, and quality assurance of these multi-modal platforms to predict their performance in pre-clinical and clinical settings. This validation, defined as the correlation of in vivo image results across various platforms using common targets, may require imaging and/or spectroscopic studies of multiple parameters (including anatomical, functional, and molecular aspects). Such studies may require the use of appropriate combinations of phantoms, small animal models, and in vitro models. This validation aspect is essential to all projects proposed for funding under the NTROI program.

Research teams that apply to the NTROI RFA are expected to define a problem in clinical cancer imaging and propose a solution. The challenge can be focused by a choice of organ site (e.g., breast, colon, prostate, etc.) or by choice of cancer biomarker (e.g., angiogenesis, gene expression, cellular proliferation, or hypoxia). Problems for address may pertain to pre-cancer, early cancer detection, diagnosis, staging, measurement of early response to therapy, or improved image guidance of therapeutic interventions including surgical, energy deposition, or drug delivery techniques. A prospective team is encouraged to focus its multi-modal solution that includes optical imaging and/or spectroscopy on a target cancer problem.

Teams selected after completion of the NIH process of peer review will form a network, through which extensive collaborations and sharing of processes and validation methods are expected to take place. A Steering Committee formed by participants from each of the network teams and NCI scientists will oversee NTROI activities.

Inquiries and Further Information

Details on the NTROI concept approved by the Board of Scientific Advisors (BSA) of the NCI will be posted on the Cancer Imaging Program web site at

Complete information on the NTROI program will be available in RFA-CA-08-002, which is expected to be published in the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts in September 2007 (Note: the link to this RFA will be activated after RFA release). Prospective applicants are encouraged to check the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts for the Guide Notice of RFA publication as well as another Guide Notice to provide details on the NTROI pre-submission meeting.

For any additional inquiries, please contact:

Dr. Houston Baker
Program Director
Cancer Imaging Program
Division of Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment
National Cancer Institute
6130 Executive Boulevard, Room 6060, MSC 7412
Bethesda, MD 20892-7412 (for U.S. Postal Service Express or regular mail)
Rockville, MD 20852-4910 (for non-USPS express/courier delivery)
Telephone: (301) 594-9117
Fax: (301) 480-3507

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