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Funds available for cancer-related research by junior faculty

Through the American Cancer Society Institutional Research Grant, Penn State Cancer Institute has funds available to support cancer-related research by junior faculty.

The intent of the support is to allow junior faculty to obtain preliminary data that will enable them to successfully compete for cancer-relevant, national peer-reviewed grant support (e.g., American Cancer Institute; National Institutes of Health, including NCI; NIEHS; or other institutes that fund cancer-related grants).

The purpose of the Institutional Research Grant program is:

  • support the development of new investigators to conduct independent cancer research,
  • to foster direct relationships between funded institutions and the local American Cancer Society, and
  • to support research by newly independent investigators in areas of special interest to the Society, including psychosocial and behavioral research, health policy or health services research, cancer in the poor and medically underserved and childhood cancer.

Applications must be submitted electronically to by 1:00pm on June30, 2021.

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RFA: American Cancer Society Institutional Research Grant

Eligibility Expand answer

Applicants must be within six years of their first independent research or faculty appointment. Support of senior investigators or postdoctoral fellows is not permitted. Investigators currently supported with national research awards are not eligible.

Applicants are not required to be United States citizens; however, anyone who is not a U.S. citizen must hold a visa that will allow them to remain in the U.S. long enough to complete the pilot project.

Penn State Cancer Institute is particularly interested in applications that will help it attain National Cancer Institute designation.

Frequently Asked Questions about Eligibility

I am an assistant professor, and my initial nationally peer-reviewed research grant was not renewed. Can I apply to my institution for an IRG?

Yes. Individuals whose initial grant was not renewed and who are still at the level of assistant professor may apply for an individual IRG – provided they are within the first six years of their independent faculty (or equivalent) appointment and have not received funds from the IRG before.

What about personnel grants that are primarily intended for the junior investigator’s salary, such as the NIH K series?

As long as the applicant meets all other criteria, holders of personnel awards are eligible to receive pilot project money from the IRG.

I have a small grant from the local Division of the American Cancer Society, or a small foundation grant. Am I eligible for an individual IRG award?

As long as the grant is not the result of a national peer-reviewed competition and is for support of a different project, you may still apply for an IRG award.

I am an assistant professor with an R01 award, but want to initiate a project in a totally different area. May I apply for an individual IRG Award?

No. The IRG is intended for new investigators without an active national competitive research grant (i.e., NIH, NSF, ACS), no matter what the topic.

Is an individual eligible for more than one pilot project grant?

An individual grantee may receive a second year of funding for the same pilot project only. The award is contingent upon the local IRG committee’s review and approval of a progress report. An individual may not receive a second grant to initiate a different pilot project.

Amount Expand answer

Awards will be made up to a maximum of $30,000. Individual allocations can be used for equipment, consumable supplies and limited technical support. A complete list of what can and cannot be supported with the IRG funds is included in this RFA.

Eligible applicants whose research falls within areas that are of special interest are encouraged to apply. A maximum of $30,000 will be set aside to fund one proposal in any of the priority areas. Only applications that relate to cancer research will be accepted; however, cancer-related research will be interpreted using the broadest definition.

Within the special interest areas we encourage applicants to make explicit reference to how the research may affect patient populations and groups unique to or over-represented in the Penn State Cancer Institute catchment area.

Submission Guidelines Expand answer

Applications must be submitted electronically to by 1:00pm on June30, 2021.

Applicants must identify a primary mentor and a mentoring team who collectively have expertise in the research area and a strong record of success in mentoring junior investigators.

Required components of the completed signed application:

  • Applicant’s biographical information
  • Letter of commitment from each mentor, detailing the mentor’s specific role
  • Biosketch of the primary mentor and each member of the mentoring team
  • Abstract – 1 page summary of the research
  • Research Proposed – 5 pages total with the following sections
    • Specific Aims
    • Background and Significance
    • Experimental Approach
    • Relevance to the priority areas
    • Literature cited (not included in the 5-page limit)
  • Detailed mentoring plan and rationale for choosing each team member – 2 pages
  • For resubmission’s only – response to previous critique
  • Budget and Justification

Applications missing any one of the above components will not be reviewed.

Second Year of Support Expand answer

Investigators who have received support from the Penn State Cancer Institute ACS-IRG program in the previous year are eligible to apply for a second year of funding, but priority will be given to funding new projects.

Investigators interested in applying for a second year of funding should use the same application form and should restate each of the specific aims and describe in detail the progress made toward reaching each of the original specific aims. In addition, they should in detail explain why a second year of support is needed and provide a strong budget justification.

Allowed Expenditures Expand answer
  • Research supplies and animal maintenance.
  • Technical assistance.
  • Domestic travel when necessary to carry out the proposed research program.
  • Publication costs, including reprints.
  • Costs of computer time.
  • Special fees (pathology, photography, etc.)
  • Stipends for graduate students and postdoctoral assistants if their role is to promote and sustain the project presented by the junior faculty member.
  • Equipment costing less than $2,000. Special justification is necessary for items exceeding this amount, and permission must be obtained from the Society™s National office for the purchase of such equipment.
  • Registration fees at scientific meetings.
Not-Allowed Expenditures Expand answer
  • Salary of principal investigator (IRG Chair or pilot project grant recipient).
  • Honoraria and travel expenses for visiting lecturers.
  • Secretarial/administrative salaries.
  • Student tuition and student fees including graduate and undergraduate.
  • Foreign travel.
  • Books and periodicals.
  • Membership dues.
  • Office and laboratory furniture.
  • Office equipment and supplies.
  • Rental of office or laboratory space.
  • Recruiting and relocation expenses.
  • Non-medical services to patients (travel to a clinical site or patient incentives are allowable).
  • Construction, renovation or maintenance of buildings/laboratories.
Submission Deadline Expand answer

The completed and signed application must be submitted electronically to by 1 p.m. June 30, 2021.

Investigators are encouraged to contact Colleen Kelley if they have questions about eligibility, budget or completion of the application.

Projects must have all necessary human subject and animal certification prior to receiving funding.

Review of Applications Expand answer

The IRG Committee, comprising more than 20 experienced cancer investigators, will serve as the study section to review all proposals. Proposals will be scored on scientific merit, the mentoring plan, the potential that the proposed will lead to extramural funding and whether the work can be completed in one year.

ACS-IRG applications will be reviewed for their potential for future funding by a cancer research organization, such as the American Cancer Society or the National Cancer Institute.

Applications will also be evaluated for the degree to which they:

  • are based upon or study cancer-related health of residents of the 28-county PSCI catchment area;
  • address priority PSCI cancers (breast [female], colon/rectum, lung/bronchus, melanoma, and HPV-related cancers) and or cancer-related factors (tobacco use, physical inactivity, diet and nutrition, overweight/obesity, and limited access to health care services such as cancer prophylaxis, screening and survivorship care);
  • recruit study participants who reside in PSCI catchment area; or
  • address a vulnerable population in the PSCI catchment area (e.g., residents of rural or Appalachian counties, minorities, and children/youth).

For details on the catchment area and priority populations, contact Eugene J. Lengerich, VMD, MS, Associate Director for Health Disparities and Engagement, at

Notification to all applicants will be sent approximately one month after the submission deadline.

Awardee Obligations Expand answer
  • Awardees must acknowledge the ACS-IRG in any publications, presentations, posters or press releases using the following statement:“Supported by an Institutional Research Grant, IRG-17-175-04 from the American Cancer Society.”Or, if multiple sources of support, use this statement:“Supported in part by an Institutional Research Grant, IRG-17-175-04 from the American Cancer Society.”
  • Awardees will be required to complete a post award Interim Report of mentoring team activities and an annual Progress Report for five years following receipt of the award.
  • Awardees will apply to grants academy in Penn State College of Medicine’s Grants Academy.
  • Awardees agree to serve on future Review Committees.
  • Awardees agree to participate in American Cancer Society activities as requested.
  • Awardees will present their work to the Penn State Cancer Institute Scientific Leadership and/or American Cancer Society Review Committee.
  • Project extensions must be requested and approved in writing. No-cost extensions are not automatic.

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