Notice of Intent to Publish a Funding Opportunity Announcement for Research Answers to NCI’s Provocative Questions

Notice Number: NOT-CA-20-008

Key Dates

Release Date: November 06, 2019
Estimated Publication Date of Funding Opportunity Announcement: February 15, 2020
First Estimated Application Due Date: May 15, 2020
Earliest Estimated Award Date: March 01, 2021
Earliest Estimated Start Date: April 01, 2021

Related Announcements

Issued by
National Cancer Institute (NCI)


The National Cancer Institute (NCI) intends to publish Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOAs) as Request for Applications (RFAs) to solicit applications responding to the new set of 9 Provocative Questions.

This Notice is being provided to allow potential applicants time to develop responsive projects and meaningful collaborations.

The FOAs are expected to be published in the Winter of 2020 with expected application due dates in Spring 2020 and Winter 2021.

The FOAs will utilize the R01 and R21 activity codes. Details of the planned FOAs are provided below.

Research Initiative Details

The purpose of these FOAS is to support research projects designed to solve specific problems and paradoxes in cancer research identified by 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 researchers to think about and elucidate specific problems in key areas of cancer research that are deemed important and 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 planned issuance of the PQ Initiative includes a new set of 9 PQs, listed below. Each research project proposed in response to these FOAs must be focused on addressing a specific PQ selected from the list. Additional information defining the research scope for responsive projects (the Intent Statement) will be provided in the FOAs and posted at

  • PQ1: What are the underlying causes of the unexplained rising incidence in certain early-onset cancers?
  • PQ2: How does intermittent fasting affect cancer incidence, treatment response, or outcome?
  • PQ3: How do selective pressures affect cell competition and cooperation during cancer initiation or development?
  • PQ4: What mechanisms explain sex differences in cancer incidence, lesion location, or response to therapy?
  • PQ5: What strategies can block or reverse the emergence of new cell lineage states induced by cancer treatments?
  • PQ6: How can cancer cachexia be reversed?
  • PQ7: What methods can be developed to integrate patient-generated health data into electronic health records?
  • PQ8: What strategies improve and sustain the coordination of comprehensive healthcare for underserved cancer patients with comorbid conditions?
  • PQ9: What methods can be developed to effectively study small or rare populations relevant to cancer research?

Funding Information

Estimated Total Funding Up to $15.0 million in fiscal year 2021.
Expected Number of Awards 30
Estimated Award Ceiling R01 application budgets are not limited but need to reflect the actual needs of the proposed project. R21 application direct costs are limited to $275,000 over a two-year period, with no more than $200,000 in direct costs allowed in any single year.
Primary CFDA Numbers 93.393, 93.394, 93.395, 93.396,93.399

Anticipated Eligible Organizations

Public/State Controlled Institution of Higher Education
Private Institution of Higher Education
Nonprofit with 501(c)(3) IRS Status (Other than Institution of Higher Education)
Small Business
For-Profit Organization (Other than Small Business)
State Government
Indian/Native American Tribal Government (Federally Recognized)
County governments
Indian/Native American Tribally Designated Organization (Native American tribal organizations (other than Federally recognized tribal governments)
U.S. Territory or Possession
Non-domestic (non-U.S.) Entity (Foreign Organization)

Applications are not being solicited at this time.


Please direct all inquiries to:

Sean Hanlon, Ph.D.
National Cancer Institute (NCI)