The purpose of this Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) is to invite Cooperative Agreement (U01) applications for the development of enabling informatics technologies to improve the acquisition, management, analysis, and dissemination of data and knowledge across the cancer research continuum including cancer biology, cancer treatment and diagnosis, early cancer detection, risk assessment and prevention, cancer control and epidemiology, and/or cancer health disparities. As a component of the NCI’s Informatics Technology for Cancer Research (ITCR) Program, this FOA focuses on early-stage development from prototyping to hardening and adaptation. Early-stage development is defined for the purpose of this FOA as initial tool development or the significant modification of existing tools for new applications. The central mission of ITCR is to promote research-driven informatics technology across the development lifecycle to address priority needs in cancer research. In order to be successful, proposed development plans must have a clear rationale on why the proposed technology is needed and how it will benefit the cancer research field. In addition, mechanisms to solicit feedback from users and collaborators throughout the development process must be included.
The 21st century has seen major advances in biology coupled with innovations in information technology that have led to an explosive growth of biological and biomedical information. From the genomic revolution and many of its manifestations to developments in high-throughput, high-content screening, biomedical scientists have access to research data of unprecedented size and complexity. This situation provides important opportunities for new discoveries and ultimately, for realizing the promise of precision medicine. At the same time, it confronts researchers, including bench biologists and clinicians, with significant challenges to access data, analyze data, and ultimately transform discovery into new knowledge and clinical practice. These challenges are especially prominent in the field of cancer research where complexity and heterogeneity of the disease translate to complex data generation conditions and high data management and analysis overhead, a condition that creates significant barriers to knowledge discovery and dissemination.
The field of biomedical informatics is critical to creating solutions to meet these challenges. At the intersection of biology, physics, chemistry, medicine, mathematics, statistics, computer science, and information technology, biomedical informatics involves the development and application of computational tools to support the organization and understanding of biomedical information, so that new insight and knowledge can be discerned. There is a growing consensus that biomedical research is an information-intensive science and biomedical informatics is no longer an option but an integral component of all biomedical research.
Remarkable progress in biomedical informatics supporting cancer research has been made in recent years. The emerging use of cloud computing to support big data analysis; innovative computational methods for variant calling and driver mutation detection; the application of machine learning and other artificial intelligence methods to image analysis; and the application of natural language processing to clinical information, for example, have all had fundamental impacts on cancer research. However, the use of informatics in everyday research remains a challenge for a number of reasons including the low availability of user-focused tools; lack of sufficient support for existing tools; the need for training materials; lack of interoperable tools; and the lack of tools to meet specific scientific needs. These critical needs are recognized by NCI and formed the basis of the NCI Informatics Technology for Cancer Research (ITCR) Program whose scope serves informatics needs that span the cancer research continuum. Moreover, ITCR provides support for informatics resources across the development lifecycle, including the development of innovative methods and algorithms, early-stage software development (current FOA), advanced stage software development, and sustainment of high-value resources on which the community has come to depend.
Companion FOAs of the ITCR program include:
RFA-CA-21-013, “Development of Innovative Informatics Methods and Algorithms for Cancer Research and Management (R21 Clinical Trial Optional)”
RFA-CA-21-015, “Advanced Development of Informatics Technologies for Cancer Research and Management (U24 Clinical Trial Optional)”
RFA-CA-21-016, “Sustained Support for Informatics Resources for Cancer Research and Management (U24 Clinical Trial Optional)”
RFA-CA-21-017, “Revision Applications to Support the Application of Informatics Technology for Cancer Research (R01 Clinical Trial Optional)”
RFA-CA-21-018, “Revision Applications to Support the Application of Informatics Technology for Cancer Research (U01 Clinical Trial Optional)”
RFA-CA-21-019, “Revision Applications to Support the Application of Informatics Technology for Cancer Research (U24 Clinical Trial Optional)”
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Filed Under: Funding Opportunities