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Research We Fund: Extramural Discovery Science

RFA: Metastasis in Melanoma and Other Cancers


The American Cancer Society (ACS) and the Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA) have partnered to support research. We're requesting grant applications to fund research projects that involve interdisciplinary teams about “Understanding and Managing Metastasis of Melanoma and Other Types of Cancer.”


Some progress has been made in understanding why cancers metastasize and how to treat metastatic cancer, but significant gaps in knowledge remain. For instance, we’re still looking for answers to broad questions like these. 

  • How can we offer survivors with metastatic cancer more choices for effective treatment to extend their survival?
  • How can we help survivors with the myriad of physical and psychological issues that affect their quality of life?
  • Do survivors of lung, breast, renal, and skin cancers (especially melanoma) have higher rates of metastasis to the brain than other cancers?
  • What causes some cancers to metastasize early in the disease course and others to metastasize years later?
  • If discovery scientists collaborated with clinician scientists, could biomarkers and warning signs be identified to predict patients who are at risk? If so, how could these biomarkers and signs be used to prevent metastases? 


To be considered for this grant on metastasis, proposed research must have at least a 50% focus on melanoma. Research projects must also include a focus on both: 

  1. How underlying mechanisms can be leveraged to predict and manage metastasis.
  2. How interdisciplinary teams will collaborate to discover more effective ways to manage tumors that are more likely to metastasize.  

Expected research results: The goal is for research projects to discover better ways to predict and manage metastasis that can be rapidly applied to clinical care.

Scope of Application Topics: The following are some examples of potential research projects.

Sample Category 1: Extend Knowledge about the Causes of Metastasis and Identify Potential Solutions
For example, research projects may search for answers to questions such as:

  • What cellular changes lead to metastasis and how can they be
  • What mechanisms in microenvironments are specific to
    metastatic lesions?
  • Are there perioperative treatments that can prevent
    metastasis after surgery?
  • Why do some tumors recur and what regulates them?
  • What is the basis of therapy resistance in metastasis?
  • What causes melanoma and other cancers to metastasize primarily to the brain? For example, what are the similarities and differences in metastasis to the brain for different types of cancers?

Sample Category 2: Improve Management
For example, research projects may look for ways to: 

  • Leverage the expertise of an interdisciplinary team to understand how to prevent and manage metastasis, including physical functioning, clinical sequelae, and symptom management
  • Tailor therapies that are specific to either early or established metastatic disease, such as by identifying or discovering targets, like unique genetics/epigenetics or features of the microenvironment, including immune interactions.
  • Enhance the effectiveness of current therapies and better coordinate care to prevent or identify metastases early.

Eligibility Requirements

Grant applications may come from institutions to fund research involving an interdisciplinary team about understanding and managing metastasis of melanoma and other types of cancer.

Eligible Institutions: Applications may be submitted by a college, university, medical school, or other not-for-profit research organization within the United States, its territories, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

Interdisciplinary Teams: Each member of the team must have a doctorate degree (MD, PhD, DVM, or equivalent), be independent and have a full-time faculty position or equivalent at a college, university, medical school, or other fiscally responsible, not-for-profit research organization within the United States. 

Each team must consist of at least 3 members: Lead primary investigator (PI) and at least 1 Team Principal as well as 1 Team Investigator.

Lead PI

  • Role: This investigator serves as the team leader and primary point of contact for the ACS and MRA Extramural Research Staff. He or She ensures the team complies with the terms of the award. For instance, the PI is responsible for the overall scientific and technical direction of the proposed research, all reporting, and all contractual and financial obligations. Multiple PIs or co-PIs are not allowed. The Lead PI’s institution oversees all organization assurances and certifications.
  • Eligibility Requirements: PIs must have more than 5-years’ experience as a faculty member. (That is, PIs may not be early-career investigators.) The Lead PI must be at an institution within the United States. There are no citizenship restrictions.

Team Principal(s)

  • Role: All team principals collaborate with the Lead PI. Principals direct specific areas of scientific and technical work based on their discipline and areas of expertise. The Lead PI and all Team Principals share authority for scientific leadership.
  • Eligibility Requirements: Principals must have more than 5-years’ experience as a faculty member. (That is, principals may not be early-career investigators.)  Team Principles do not need to be at the same institution as the Lead PI, and those institutions may be within or outside the US. There are no citizenship restrictions.

Team investigator(s)

  • Role: Team investigators contribute to the proposed research.
  • Eligibility requirements: Investigators within the first 5-years of their initial faculty appointment are eligible to serve as a Team Investigator. In fact, teams are encouraged to include at least 1 early-career investigator, such as an Instructor or Assistant Professor. Team investigators do not need to be at the same institution as the Lead PI, and those institutions may be within or outside the US. There are no citizenship restrictions.

Grant Budget and Term

Funds Available for Awards: A total of $2 million committed equally by ACS and MRA will be used to fund 2 Team Awards at $1 million, distributed across the term of the grant. Each award will be jointly funded by MRA and ACS and awarded institutions will contract with both MRA and ACS using their individual Terms and Conditions.

Indirect Costs: The award will carry a 10% allowable overhead from ACS. Details of contracting, payments, and post-award re-budgeting for both ACS and MRA are provided with the notice of grant award.

Term: Up to 3 years, with the grant term starting January 1, 2020.

Application and Review Process

A Letter of Intent (LOI) is required.

LOI Deadline: January 16, 2019

LOI Required Information: When you fill out the LOI template on proposalCentral you will need this information about the research project and lead PI.

  • Project Title
  • Project Summary, including specific goals
  • Approach, such as study design and analytic methods
  • Expected Impact and Timeline to Clinical Application
  • Team composition, listing in order the lead PI, at least 1 principal, and at least 1 team investigator.
  • Team member details. For each team member, include his or her, name, degree(s), job title, department name, institution name, and discipline(s)/expertise. For Lead PI only, also include: mailing address, email address, telephone number, and administrative assistant’s full name and email address.
  • You will need to upload NIH biosketches for all team members.
  • Estimate of total funds needed

How to Submit an LOI: Please follow this link to Altum/proposalCentral

Notification Process: By February 6, 2019, selected institutions and lead PIs will receive an email inviting them to apply.

Those invited to submit a full application will be provided with a set of policies and instructions about the grant mechanism. This RFA will use the Interdisciplinary Team Award Grant mechanism.  

Full Application Deadline: April 15, 2019

Grant Review Process and Timelines:

  • June 2019: Peer Review of grant applications
  • August 2019: All applicants have the opportunity to discuss the Peer Review with a Program Director.
  • September 2019: Funding decisions will be made by the ACS Extramural Research Council
  • October 2019: Lead PIs and Institutions will be notified by email about grant terms starting on January 1, 2020. 

For questions about this mechanism please email