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Research We Fund: Extramural Discovery Science

RFA: Pilot and Exploratory Projects in Palliative Care of Cancer Patients and Their Families


The development of the specialty of palliative medicine is a critical step in addressing the unmet needs of patients with serious illness and their families.

Pilot data are typically needed before funding agencies (e.g., NIH, VA, or the American Cancer Society) will consider funding a research project. In an effort to support clinician investigators conducting patient-oriented research in palliative care, the American Cancer Society (ACS), in parallel with the National Palliative Care Research Center (NPCRC), is soliciting applications for pilot/exploratory research grants in palliative care for cancer patients and their families. These grants will generate the pilot data necessary to maximize an investigator's chances of successfully competing for larger grants. 

Eligibility Requirements

1. Applications may be submitted by not-for-profit institutions located within the United States, its territories, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

2. Applicants must hold a doctorate degree (M.D., Ph.D., or equivalent) and have a full-time faculty position or equivalent at a college, university, medical school, or other fiscally responsible not-for-profit organization within the United States.

3. Independent investigators at all stages of their career are eligible to apply. Thus, the usual ACS restriction to investigators within the first 8 years of their initial independent research appointment does not apply to this request for applications (RFA).

Focus of RFA

Awarded grants will provide funding for investigators to perform pilot and exploratory research studies with the purpose of testing interventions, developing research methodologies, or exploring novel areas of research in palliative care for cancer patients and their families. A condition of funding is a clearly defined plan as to how the investigator will use the results of the project to develop larger, extramurally funded research projects.

This RFA is limited to applications that focus on palliative care research projects for seriously ill cancer patients and their families in 3 specific areas:

1. Exploring the relationship of pain and other distressing symptoms on quality and quantity of life, independence, function, and disability and developing interventions directed at their treatment in patients with advanced and chronic illnesses;

2. Studying methods of improving communication between cancer survivors living with serious illness with their families and health care providers;

3. Evaluating models and systems of care for patients living with advanced illness and their families.

As a condition of accepting the award, each recipient of this grant, will agree to:

1. Attend the required Fall meetings of the NPCRC during the award period.
2. Present results of the funded research at this required NPCRC meeting;


This RFA will use the American Cancer Society Pilot and Exploratory Projects (PEP) award mechanism. 

All Grant Policies
All Grant Instructions

Length of Study

Awards may not exceed a period of 1 to 2 years duration.


Awards may not exceed $60,000 per year (direct costs) plus 20% indirect costs. Salary support for the Principal Investigator may not exceed 20% of the direct costs.

PEP grant recipients are required to attend the NPCRC’s Annual Kathleen Foley Palliative Care Retreat and Research Symposium meeting in years 1 and 2 of the grant term. The meeting is held in September/October of each year. Principal investigators are responsible for airfare and lodging for the conference and should budget a minimum of $1,500 per year.


A total of $500,000 per year is available for this mechanism.

Peer Review Process 

Review of applications at the American Cancer Society is a two-tiered process.

1. Applications will be reviewed by the Palliative Care and Symptom Management (PCSM) Peer Review Committee. Applications recommended for funding by the Peer Review Committee will be forwarded to the Council for Extramural Grants.

2. Council will determine which grants will be funded from all 20 Peer Review Committees after considering the relative merit of applications and available funds.

Additional Questions

For questions about this mechanism please contact Chanda Felton, Program Manager of the Clinical and Cancer Control Research program, at  

Electronic Grant Application instructions and forms are available on proposalCENTRAL.

The website for the National Palliative Care Research Center is: