2019 DF/HCC Nodal Award Program RFA

September 10, 2019


Request for Applications

Dana-Farber / Harvard Cancer Center

Nodal Award Program 2019: Inter-Programmatic Collaborative Pilot Projects

Award Amount: $75,000 per year for up to two years (direct costs)
Posted date: September 10, 2019
Deadline for LOI: Friday, October 4, 2019
Deadline for Application: Friday, November 1, 2019
Anticipated award date: December 1, 2019


Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center (DF/HCC) aims to foster collaborations among Center members that promote new translational and basic cancer research as well as investigation that addresses the unequal burden of cancer and cancer outcomes in diverse populations. 

To advance this goal, DF/HCC periodically solicits proposals for pilot projects that enhance or create new inter-Programmatic “nodal point” interactions between members of different DF/HCC Research Programs. These interactions link research efforts across Programs, with a focus on projects that have potential for significant application in the clinic. This Award Program targets such inter-programmatic “nodal points” and interdisciplinary collaborations between members of any two different DF/HCC Research Programs are eligible for support. 

A key goal of the 2019 Nodal Award Program is to encourage sustained collaboration through future submission of new multi-investigator grants that respond to NCI research priorities. Thus, Nodal Awards will seed work from groups of two or more DF/HCC members from different research programs to institute new collaborations and gather compelling preliminary data for competitive future funding. Examples of new collaborative grants include:

  • Interdisciplinary multi-PI R01 grants.
  • Non-organ-specific SPORE awards, such as those focused on cancers caused by the same infectious agent, cancers promoted by dysregulation of a common signaling pathway, or cross-cutting themes such as pediatric cancers or cancer health disparities.
  • Grants funded by philanthropic sources, including SU2C and other private foundations.

Up to four pilot projects will be awarded. One award will be reserved for a proposal aimed at understanding and devising solutions to relieve disparities in cancer burdens that result from racial, ethnic, or socioeconomic factors. A second award will be reserved for a proposal in cancer early detection or prevention, using definitions found in the NCI SPORE RFA-18-313:

An early detection project is one that develops and/or tests an assay (biological or imaging) that determines the presence of an early invasive cancer or detects a pre-cancerous lesion. This includes early detection of a new primary in a "cancerized field" (an area of epithelium surrounding an excised or treated primary tumor that contains genetically transformed, but histologically normal cells that are predisposed, perhaps because of continual carcinogenic insult, to subsequent tumor development.) Testing for metastases or recurrence of a primary tumor is not early detection. Although screening and early detection are sometimes used interchangeably, screening is the application of the assay in general populations and is beyond the scope of a project in this category.

A prevention project investigates a medical, surgical, or lifestyle intervention that has as its aim the reduction of cancer incidence in individuals at risk. A project that addresses the prevention of a second primary tumor is also appropriate. A project that addresses prevention of cancer recurrence is not acceptable for a project in this category. A therapeutic vaccine in a no-evidence-of-disease state would not be considered secondary prevention, but rather a therapeutic intervention (i.e., adjuvant therapy.) However, a project that develops a vaccine that targets "at risk" lesions (e.g., pancreatic cysts, Barrett's esophagus or DCIS) is appropriate.

Each award is for $75,000 (direct costs) per year for up to two years; indirect costs will be awarded at the full federal rate. The anticipated start date is December 1, 2019. Projects must be ready to commence immediately after receipt of the award. 

Applicants must be DF/HCC members (Full or Associate). Projects must represent a new collaboration between two or more DF/HCC members who are in good standing in different Programs. Proposals must create new inter-Programmatic “nodal point” interactions. 

Please visit the DF/HCC website to learn more about the Programs and research members: www.dfhcc.harvard.edu.

If you plan to submit a proposal, please e-mail dfhcc@partners.org by October 4, 2019. Provide a project title, the names of the PIs and their affiliations, whether you are applying in the general pool or with a focus on disparities, early detection or prevention, and a brief description of the project. This notification helps us plan the review process. You will not receive an invitation to submit a full proposal. ALL applicants can submit a proposal before 5 PM on Friday, November 1, 2019. 


  • New Nodal Award Coversheet: (included in the related file below or from dfhcc@partners.org). Please list the title of proposal, the inter-programmatic nodal collaboration proposed, the name and DF/HCC Program affiliation of each collaborating Principal Investigator. Indicate if the proposal is focused on disparities, early detection or prevention.
  • Research Proposal: Describe the proposed research including 1) background, 2) specific aims and 3) research plan. Highlight why inter-Programmatic collaboration will be advantageous and a plan (if you have one) to apply for extra-mural funds to sustain the collaboration beyond the period of the Nodal Award. The proposal should be a maximum of 5 pages of text, including preliminary data and figures. References and budget pages are not included in this limit. Appendix material will not be accepted.
  • Biosketches and Other Support: Current NIH Biosketch for all collaborating PIs (DF/HCC members), including all funding sources.
  • Budget Request: Budget estimates should be submitted on NIH 398 form with major divisions of funds (personnel, equipment, supplies, other, with adequate justification). PIs should include a level of effort and salary support commensurate with their efforts on the Nodal Project. Support and effort may be split between collaborating PIs. Subcontracting is not required between collaborators; DF/HCC will award funds directly to each collaborator.

Submission requirements: An electronic (PDF) copy of application, due on or before 5 PM Friday, November 1, 2019.

Submit to: Deborah Goff (Email: dfhcc@partners.org) On behalf of Peter Howley, MD

Contact regarding questions: Deborah Goff, (617) 632-4044, dfhcc@partners.org

Applications will be peer- reviewed by designated expert reviewers. The DF/HCC Executive Committee will provide final approval for funding. Grants will be awarded on the basis of the following review criteria:

  • Scientific excellence and merit. Proposals should address important problems or critical barriers to progress in the field. The aims should advance scientific knowledge, technical capability and/or clinical practice. Proposals need not have extensive preliminary data.
  • Innovation. Applications should challenge and seek to shift current research or clinical practice paradigms by using novel theoretical concepts, approaches or methodologies, instrumentation or interventions.
  • Translation. Projects that have the opportunity to stimulate direct application to cancer treatment or prevention are encouraged.
  • Strength of inter-programmatic nodal collaboration. Projects should foster trans-disciplinary research and collaboration across research programs. Proposals must involve the creation of new inter-programmatic “Nodal Point” interactions. 
  • Inter-institutional links. Proposals that stimulate inter-institutional research will be favored in decisions between equally ranked applications.
  • Potential to gain independent funding. Projects with the potential and a plan for future independent external funding from the NCI, other NIH institutes, or other cancer research foundations will be favored on the basis of sustainability and long-term promise. 

A progress report is required after the first year of funding. Funding for the second year is contingent upon satisfactory first-year progress, to be evaluated by the Executive Committee or delegated experts. Grantees may be required to present their project and relevant finding at DF/HCC meetings. 

A final report, including a summary of expenditures, is due at the end of the two-year project period. Should an awardee leave DF/HCC, the remainder of the award will be forfeited (i.e., funds may not be transferred to a non-DF/HCC institution).