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Areas of Targeted Need

Image of a sonarConcomitant with the ever-changing landscape of technology development, the IMAT Program regularly attempts to identify and incorporate areas of particular technological need within the realm of cancer research. Incorporation of such areas provides directionality to the flow of technology development without stifling the creativity of the individual investigators whom the program serves. Although projects in any area of technology development that meet the program’s transformative criteria are encouraged, the following general areas of particular need have been identified through and NCI strategic planning process:

Within the Innovative Technology Development and Application and Use of Transformative Emerging Technologies in Cancer Research Theme Areas:

A. 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

B. 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

C. 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.

D. 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.

E. 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.

Within the Innovative and Applied Emerging Technologies in Biospecimen Science Theme Area:

  • Biospecimen Quality Assessment and Evaluation:
    • technologies designed to probe or assess the quality of biospecimens;
    • technologies to determine the effects of collection, processing, and storage on specific molecular components of interest in stored biospecimens; and
    • technologies for quantitative measuring and monitoring changes in the properties of biomolecules of interest and their detectability over time and/or in biospecimens exposed to diverse handling/processing conditions.
  • Biospecimen Procurement, Storage, Handling, and Transport:
    • technologies for the assessment, prevention, and/or reversal of adverse changes in samples resulting from storage and/or the use of specific preservation methods or materials; and
    • technologies for the procurement of biospecimens with minimal invasiveness and variability.
  • Biospecimen Processing:
    • technologies for the preparation of specific types of biomolecules, fluids, tissues, or other sample types that are necessary for cancer research and/or for clinical oncological practices.
  • Analyte Extraction and Purification:
    • technologies directed toward maximizing yield and throughput, particularly highly multiplexed technologies capable of extracting and purifying nucleic acids and proteins;
    • technologies that optimize the isolation and/or purification of specific biomolecules and/or specific classes of biomolecules (e.g., phosphorylated proteins, membrane-bound proteins, etc.) and/or isolation of other defined fractions from biospecimens;
    • technologies for isolation of specific classes of cells, e.g., the enrichment of exfoliated cells from biofluids or isolation of stem cells from tumor specimen; and
    • technologies for isolation of sub-cellular components such as organelles, or other sub-cellular structures.
  • Analyte Utilization and Analysis:
    • highly multiplexed technologies with a high degree of sensitivity and specificity aimed at maximizing the utility of analytes extracted from cancer biospecimens.