Notice of Special Interest (NOSI): Adaptive Biomaterials for Cancer Biology
Notice Number:

Key Dates

Release Date:

January 10, 2023

First Available Due Date:
February 05, 2023
Expiration Date:
May 07, 2025

Related Announcements

PA-20-185 - NIH Research Project Grant (Parent R01, Clinical Trial Not Allowed)

PAR-22-242 - Bioengineering Research Grants (BRG) (R01 Clinical Trial Not Allowed)

PA-20-188 - NIH Pathway to Independence Award (Parent K99/R00 Independent Clinical Trial Not Allowed)

PAR-21-128 - The NCI Transition Career Development Award (K22 - Independent Clinical Trial Not Allowed)

Issued by

National Cancer Institute (NCI)


The purpose of this Notice of Special Interest (NOSI) is to promote research focused on the development, adaptation, or integration of innovative biomaterials for cancer biology. The applications of these new materials are expected to enable new insights into basic cancer research.


Advances in biomaterials have facilitated the development of biomimetic model systems and physiologically relevant assays to interrogate fundamental mechanisms of cancer biology. While much progress has been made, there remain opportunities to develop materials that better reflect the complexities of cancer environments in vivo—including adjacent healthy tissue, tumors, and tumor microenvironments—for cancer biology research applications.

Tissue engineered systems have substantially contributed to our understanding of cancer. The ability to control conditions in an in vitro model allows for the examination of specific pathways and cancer phenomena that is difficult when using in vivo model systems. For tissue-engineered platforms to be adopted they must be reproducible, requiring consistent manufacturing and material composition. Advances in material fabrication (e.g., bioprinting, lithography, electrospinning, decellularization, and synthetic biology approaches) over the last ten years have made it possible for more researchers to design, develop, and test new materials for biomedical research. The properties of biomaterials such as hydrogels and scaffolds have been modified by chemists and material scientists to either more closely recapitulate physiological substrates or enable more precise control over culture conditions. Although some novel materials have been used in model systems to mimic the properties of the surrounding tumor niche, more research and development are needed to model the complexity, heterogeneity, and evolution of tumors found in vivo.

Functionalization of materials to detect or respond to environmental changes would be helpful in a variety of cancer applications. Materials designed to mimic the stiffness and viscoelasticity of a dynamic tumor environment more accurately would enable more insights into the varied mechanisms cancer uses to modify or create specific niches that allow for invasion or metastasis. Materials that respond to changes in pH, oxygen percentage, free radical concentration, or cytokine gradients could improve monitoring and understanding of cancer initiation and progression. Substances and substrates that assess or modify the immune or inflammatory response could enhance mechanistic understanding of the factors that help mitigate or exacerbate the spread of cancer.

Advanced development of materials that can mimic the tumor and its environment for a particular cancer necessitates a close collaboration between chemists, material scientists, physical scientists, and cancer experts. NCI research programs such as the Cancer Tissue Engineering Collaborative and the Innovative Molecular Analysis Technologies (IMAT) program have supported scientific discovery in this area, and with the reissuance of PAR-22-242 Bioengineering Research Grants (BRG), the NCI envisions an expanded opportunity to support early-stage development and application of innovative biomaterials for basic cancer research.

Research Objectives

This NOSI invites applications that propose the development of advanced biomaterials for use in fundamental cancer biology research as well as proposals incorporating the novel application of advanced biomaterials to address cancer biology research questions. These biomaterials may mimic the dynamic and heterogeneous cellular and physical properties of living tissue, including in vivo tumor and tumor microenvironment, or materials may serve to induce systemic control, thus allowing more effective investigation of hypotheses within a complex system.

Areas of interest and potential characteristics of advanced biomaterials include, but are not limited to:

  • Materials that respond or adapt to their environment in a controllable way, modifying their properties in response to environmental stimuli. For example, biomaterials that can change in response to cell interactions and exhibit properties induced by temporally relevant signals.
  • Extracellular matrix scaffolds, hydrogels, or other engineered materials that preferentially recruit and modify cells important in the tumor ecosystem, including by not limited to immune cell types, to study immune modulation.
  • Engineered biomaterials that display physiologically relevant dynamic physical properties of living tissue, including but not limited to: stiffness, viscoelasticity, piezoelasticity.
  • Materials engineered to respond to dynamic physical properties of living tissue.
  • Materials capable of changing mechanical properties, pH-responsive conformational changes, thermal-responsive materials capable of changing electrostatic properties, and self-healing materials capable of repairing micro-damage
  • Functionalized materials that mimic dynamic properties of tumors, the tumor microenvironment, and/or sites of metastasis or metastatic niches.
  • Materials that address issues of reproducibility in tumor models.


Applications that will be considered nonresponsive to this NOSI will include those focused on:

  • Clinical Trials

Application and Submission Information

This notice applies to due dates on or after February 5, 2023, and subsequent receipt dates through May 7, 2025

Submit applications for this initiative using one of the following funding opportunity announcements (FOAs) or any reissues of these announcements through the expiration date of this notice.

Activity Code

FOA Title

First Available Due Date

Expiration Date

PA-20-185 NIH Research Project Grant (Parent R01 Clinical Trial Not Allowed) February 5, 2023 May 08, 2023
PAR-22-242 Bioengineering Research Grants (BRG) (R01 Clinical Trial Not Allowed) February 5, 2023 September 08, 2025
PA-20-188 NIH Pathway to Independence Award (Parent K99/R00 Independent Clinical Trial Not Allowed) February 12, 2023 May 8, 2023
PAR-21-128 The NCI Transition Career Development Award (K22 - Independent Clinical Trial Not Allowed) February 12, 2023 March 15, 2024

All instructions in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide and the funding opportunity announcement used for submission must be followed, with the following additions:

  • For funding consideration, applicants must include “NOT-CA-23-030” (without quotation marks) in the Agency Routing Identifier field (box 4B) of the SF424 R&R form. Applications without this information in box 4B will not be considered for this initiative.

Applications nonresponsive to terms of this NOSI will not be considered for the NOSI initiative.


Please direct all inquiries to the contacts in Section VII of the listed funding opportunity announcements with the following additions/substitutions:

Scientific/Research Contact(s)

Eric M. Johnson Chavarria, Ph.D.
National Cancer Institute (NCI), Division of Cancer Biology
Telephone: 240-276-7416

Peer Review Contact(s)

Examine your eRA Commons account for review assignment and contact information (information appears two weeks after the submission due date).

Financial/Grants Management Contact(s)

Crystal Wolfrey
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Telephone: 240-276-6277