Notice of Special Interest (NOSI): Exploratory Cancer Immunology Projects and Technologies (ExCITe)

Application Due Date
Brief Description


Through this Notice of Special Interest (NOSI) on Exploratory Cancer Immunology Projects and Technologies (ExCITe), the National Cancer Institute intends to encourage R21 applications proposing innovative high-risk/high-reward research projects, that test novel hypotheses or develop novel technologies, to advance our understanding of cancer immunology. Research projects should focus on fundamental areas of cancer immunology, including innate and adaptive immune responses, tumor-immune ecosystems and their dynamic interactions, the immune response to metastases, systemic immune networks, immunosurveillance, tumor immune evasion, or immunomodulation. Projects should be distinct in scope and focus from those supported through the traditional R01 mechanism. ExCITe studies may involve considerable risk but have the potential to lead to research breakthroughs or the development of novel techniques, agents, methodologies, models, or applications that could have a major impact in cancer immunology and cancer immunotherapy research.


The field of cancer immunology aims to decipher the intricate nature of molecular and cellular interactions that orchestrate the cancer-immune ecosystem across the continuum of cancer initiation, progression, and metastasis. Although various immunotherapy approaches have revolutionized cancer treatment, there is a critical need to better understand and overcome important hurdles that have limited long-term outcomes to a few cancer types and subsets of patients. Through the ExCITe NOSI, the NCI aims to promote and support bold research ideas and novel technologies that could ignite new paradigms in cancer immunology and lead to improved and more widely available immunotherapy approaches for cancer patients.

Research Objectives

R21 applications submitted through the ExCITe NOSI should propose innovative high-risk/high-reward research projects, that test novel hypotheses or develop novel technologies, to advance our understanding of cancer immunology. Applicants should propose research studies to address fundamental aspects in the field of tumor immunology and/or innovative ways to enhance anti-cancer immunity. Innovative approaches that target both primary tumor and metastases are encouraged. Establishing new or improved in vivo/in vitro models to study the dynamics of tumor-immune ecosystems are also encouraged. 

Examples of projects NOT responsive to this NOSI:

  • New biomarkers for screening or diagnostic tools, such as imaging techniques; cancer preventive agents or approaches; predictive and prognostic biomarkers for patient selection or stratification; new treatment strategies involving repurposed agents or novel combinations of interventions (including radiation) based on established mechanisms of action. 
  • Studies that promote mechanistic research aimed at better understanding the pathophysiology of immune-related adverse events (irAEs).
  • Studies that use multidisciplinary approaches to develop bioengineering solutions in cancer.

While above-mentioned studies are not responsive to this NOSI, interested applicants may apply on the three research areas using PAR-20-292NOT-CA-22-063, and PAR-22-091 respectively.