Among the strengths of the IMAT Program is the diversity of disciplines from which potentially transformative technologies are solicited. IMAT supports technology development from a variety of cross-cutting, research-enabling scientific and technical disciplines in an attempt to provide directionality to the flow of technology development while not inhibiting the creativity of the individual investigator in tackling the most important technical barriers in cancer research. Highly innovative technologies carrying a certain degree of technical risk but that also have the capability or potential to uncover new directions and paradigms in cancer research are desired. Projects in any area of cancer-related technology development that meet such transformative criteria are encouraged. General areas of particular need that have been identified through an NCI strategic planning process include:
Technologies for the Early Detection of Cancer and Risk Assessment
Technologies applicable to the early detection and diagnosis of cancer, including prediction of progression from preneoplastic lesions to cancer and cancer risk assessment. Of particular interest are technologies for:
- Cancer biomarker discovery through multiplexing platforms to accurately measure low abundance biomarkers, including those from bodily fluids (serum, plasma, buffy coat cells, urine, sputum, saliva) or cells within these fluids;
- Detection of biochemical changes in body fluids: proteomic, glycomic, genomic, epigenomic, and metabolomic;
- Integrated technological platforms for enabling multiplexed biomarker assays, including biosensors; and
- Cellular imaging technologies to detect preneoplastic lesions.
Analytical Technologies with Potential Clinical Utility
Prognostic and diagnostic technologies with potential clinical application(s) and significance, including technologies for:
- Detection of biochemical changes in tumor tissue: genomic, epigenomic, metabolomic, and proteomic alterations, including post-translational modifications and tumor-related changes in lipids and carbohydrates;
- Prediction of response to therapy or for therapy surveillance;
- Development of analytical or point of care devices, including microfluidics, nanotechnology-based devices, or the multiplexing thereof; and
- Targeted delivery and retention of anticancer agents or the surveillance or monitoring thereof
Technologies for Research in Cancer Etiology, Epidemiology, and Health Disparities
Technologies applicable to basic research in the fields of cancer etiology and epidemiology, including the study and reduction of cancer-related disparities, and that facilitate movement of discoveries made in basic sciences to human populations or clinical and public health settings. Of particular interest are technologies for:
- Identification and validation of functional or ancestral biomarkers for differential risk susceptibility in large or multiple populations. Preferred attributes include: high degree of specificity, sensitivity, reproducibility, predictability and cost-efficiency;
- Improved technologies for glycomics, proteomics, epigenetics, haplotyping and genotyping (both nuclear and mitochondrial), pharmacogenomics, and toxicogenomics;
- Improved technologies for high-throughput screening (HTS), non-invasive analysis or advanced biosensors that can be used in risk assessment in population;
- Single cell technologies for HTS in selective at-risk cell(s) in exfoliated cells/biopsy samples for epidemiology; and
- Improved technologies for dissemination of information, such as risk, practices in clinic, cancer-related health outcomes, and public health settings - of different population groups.
Technologies for Research in Cellular Mechanics and Biophysics
Technologies designed to elucidate, interrogate, and model the role of physical forces in various cellular functions, including:
- Cellular metastasis, metastatic potential, adhesion, motility, and bioenergetics/mitochondrial function;
- Cytoskeletal alterations and intracellular mechanics; and
- Cell-based bio and nanosensors and in-silico models of cellular function and interactions with tumor microenvironment.
Technologies for Analysis of Cancer Development and Pathological Progression
Technologies for basic research with the ability to create new avenues or insights into the specific mechanisms that lead to the development and progression of cancer, including novel technologies for molecular, subcellular, cellular, and extracellular studies, including:
- Hardware and associated software development for data collection/analysis and structure/function studies;
- Capture, separation, and characterization of cells, biomolecules, molecular complexes, sub-cellular complexes, and complex mixtures;
- Technologies to facilitate the development of in vitro and in vivo cancer models (especially mouse models for human cancers);
- Technologies that enhance understanding of the tumor microenvironment, cancer stem cells; and
- Technologies that can analyze the role of pathogens in cancer development.
A Note On General Non-Responsive Technologies:
In order to prevent the duplication of efforts and funding opportunities across the NCI and NIH, it is important to note that there are areas that are generally not supported by the IMAT Program. Types of projects that are outside of the IMAT Program’s scope (i.e. are non-responsive to any IMAT FOA) include projects that:
- Propose software/informatics solutions, database development, data mining, statistical tools, and computational/mathematical modeling (including those applicable to drug and/or patient responses);
- Center on technology that has already led to the development of an analytical or diagnostic product and its commercial release;
- Propose whole-body or in vivo imaging methods;
- Emphasize exploring biological or clinical hypotheses (i.e., traditional hypothesis-driven projects) rather than on technology development;
- Center on development of specific drugs or therapies; and
- Involve clinical and/or diagnostic trials.
Researchers focusing on new bioinformatics or statistical techniques, tools, and/or software solutions are encouraged to consider one of the Biomedical Information Science and Technology Initiative (BISTI) opportunities.
Researchers who emphasize the assessment of whole body or in vivo imaging technologies as the primary focus of their projects should contact the Cancer Imaging Program for information on appropriate funding opportunities.