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National Cancer Institute
Behavioral Research - Cancer Control and Population Sciences

Basic Biobehavioral and Psychological Sciences Branch (BBPSB)

Key Initiatives: NCI Network on Biobehavioral Pathways in Cancer

National Cancer Institute - Network on Biobehavioral Pathways in Cancer

The National Cancer Institute Network on Biobehavioral Pathways in Cancer seeks highly qualified basic, clinical, and translational pilot project proposals to stimulate new research in the biobehavioral pathways of cancer.

Issued by Leidos Biomedical Research, Inc., this Request for Proposals (RFP), Seeking novel small scale pilot projects to advance the mission of the NCI Network on Biobehavioral Pathways in Cancer (S14-075), solicits qualified sources to:

  1. advance the knowledge of molecular pathways that link psychological, behavioral, or social factors to cancer biology; and
  2. use those discoveries to develop effective interventions to improve clinical outcomes.

The RFP is open to all offerors. Awards are intended to generate preliminary data. Awards are not intended to support established programs of research.

Proposals shall be submitted to Alexander Konev ( by 2:00 pm EST on Wednesday, April 2, 2014. Full RFP details are available at:, under “Current Solicitations.”

Mission & Vision
Network Priorities
Network Members

Network-Affiliated Members
The Network on Biobehavioral Pathways in Cancer leverages and integrates expertise in cancer biology, stress biology, cell biology, neuroscience, health behavior, psychology, social science, and oncology to advance the understanding of biological pathways that link behavioral processes and cancer. The Network supports research in brain pathways that underlie psychological and social experiences, and their neurobiological impact on cancer biology via the sympathetic nervous system (SNS). The Network funds small-scale pilot projects – from basic animal models to clinical research - to accelerate the knowledge of social and/or psychological signal transduction pathways in a cancer context.


The National Cancer Institute Network on Biobehavioral Pathways in Cancer accelerates the translation and communication of biobehavioral discoveries to advance clinical cancer care. The Network fosters research excellence through the integration and dissemination of relevant scientific discoveries and the identification, support, and communication of new research directions in the field of biobehavioral pathways in cancer.


The National Cancer Institute Network on Biobehavioral Pathways in Cancer will be a "tipping point" for new therapeutic approaches to cancer care and a valuable resource for scientists, oncologist, physicians, patients, media, and the general public.

Network Priorities

  • To enhance understanding and influence perception of the value and importance of biobehavioral research in clinical cancer care.
  • To expand the understanding of pathways linking behavioral processes and cancer.
  • To showcase by example the value of collaborative research that links basic and applied science in cancer biology and behavioral research.
  • To support the facilitation, development, and publication of high quality inter-disciplinary biobehavioral research.

Network Members

Paige McDonald, PhD, M.P.H.Paige McDonald, PhD, MPH
Basic Biobehavioral and Psychological Sciences Branch
National Cancer Institute

Linda Alexander, PhDLinda Alexander, PhD
Associate Professor of Health Behavior
University of Kentucky College of Public Health

Steve Cole, PhDSteve Cole, PhD
Associate Professor
David Geffen School of Medicine
University of California, Los Angeles

Steven Cole is an Associate Professor of Medicine in the Division of Hematology-Oncology at the UCLA School of Medicine. His research maps the molecular pathways by which social and environmental factors influence the activity of human, viral, and tumor genomes. He pioneered the introduction of functional genomics approaches into social and behavioral research, and has mapped the signal transduction pathways by which social factors enhance replication of HIV-1 and HHV-8 viruses, alter expression of immune response genes such as IL-6 and Interferon-beta, and up-regulate expression of pro-metastatic genes by human breast and ovarian cancer cells. His research makes intensive use of computational modeling strategies for identifying transcription factors that mediate socio-environmental influences on gene expression and genetic polymorphisms that modify those effects to create Gene x Environment interactions. Dr. Cole is member of the NCI Basic and Biobehavioral Research Branch Network on biobehavioral mechanisms in cancer biology.

Susan K. Lutgendorf, PhDSusan K. Lutgendorf, PhD
Professor & Starch Faculty Fellow
Department of Psychology
University of Iowa

Susan Lutgendorf, PhD is a Professor in the Departments of Psychology, Obstetrics and Gynecology, and Urology, a member of the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center, and a Faculty Scholar and Starch Faculty Fellow at the University of Iowa. She received her PhD in Clinical Health Psychology from the University of Miami and completed her post-doctoral training at the University of Iowa Center on Aging, supported by a National Research Service Award post-doctoral fellowship from the NIH. Dr. Lutgendorf’s current work, funded by the National Cancer Institute, examines how factors such as stress, depression, and social support are linked to biological processes involved in angiogenesis, inflammation, and recurrence in ovarian cancer patients. Dr. Lutgendorf serves on the editorial boards of Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, Psychological Bulletin, Health Psychology, and the International Journal of Behavioral Medicine and on the Scientific Council of the Academy of Behavioral Medicine Research. Dr. Lutgendorf's work has been recognized by a New Investigator Award from the Psychoneuroimmunology Research Society in 2004, an Early Career Award from the American Psychosomatic Society in 2002 and by an award from the American Psychological Association, Division 38 for Outstanding Contributions to Health Psychology in the year 2000. She currently serves as a core member of the National Cancer Institute Biobehavioral Research Network. She is a former member of the Biobehavioral Mechanisms of Emotions, Stress, and Health (MESH) Study Section at NIH.

Anil K. Sood, M.D.Anil K. Sood, MD
Director, Professor
Dept. of Gynecologic Oncology and Cancer Biology
M.D. Anderson Cancer Center

Dr. Anil K. Sood is professor in the Departments of Gynecologic Oncology and Cancer Biology and co-director of the Center for RNA Interference and Non-Coding RNA at the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center. He is also Director of the multi-disciplinary Blanton-Davis Ovarian Cancer Research Program and Vice Chair for Translational Research in the Department of Gynecologic Oncology. Dr. Sood received his medical degree from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina. His research is focused in three main areas: 1) effect of neuroendocrine stress hormones on ovarian cancer growth and progression, 2) development of new strategies for in vivo siRNA delivery, and 3) development of novel anti-vascular therapeutic approaches. Dr. Sood has received major recognition for his research accomplishments including the Hunter Award, the Margaret Greenfield/Carmel Cohen Excellence in Ovarian Cancer Research Prize, and the GCF/Claudia Cohen Research Prize for Outstanding Gynecologic Cancer Researcher. Dr. Sood has published numerous peer-reviewed articles and book chapters, and he serves on the editorial board for several journals and as a reviewer for many others. He was recently elected to the American Society for Clinical Investigation, an honor society for physician-scientists. Dr. Sood is actively involved in teaching graduate students and clinical fellows. He is a member of The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and teaches classes related to cancer cell signaling pathways.

Network-Affiliated Members

Michael H. Antoni, PhDMichael H. Antoni, PhD
University of Miami

Dr. Michael Antoni, PhD is Sylvester Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Program Leader of the Biobehavioral Oncology multidisciplinary research program at the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center (SCCC), and a licensed psychologist in the State of Florida. Since he joined the University in 1987, Dr. Antoni has received extensive extramural support from NIH and published over 400 journal articles, books, book chapters and abstracts on studies testing the effects of stress factors, social resources and stress management interventions on psychological adjustment, biological processes, and clinical health outcomes in chronic diseases such as HIV/AIDS, chronic fatigue syndrome, and breast, prostate and cervical neoplasias. Dr. Antoni received the Early Career Research Awards from the Society of Behavioral Medicine and the American Psychological Association, and is a Fellow in the Society of Behavioral Medicine. Dr. Antoni has for the past 10 years served as Associate Editor for two interdisciplinary behavioral medicine journals: International Journal of Behavioral Medicine and Psychology and Health, and has served on the Editorial boards of numerous scientific journals.

Network Project Description: Dr. Antoni's Network project is an extensive follow-up of a randomized controlled trial that aimed to test the effects of a group-based cognitive behavioral stress management (CBSM) intervention vs psychoeducational control on clinical disease endpoints over an extended time in women initially treated for non-metastatic breast cancer. His project will examine whether specific biobehavioral and psychological adaptation processes modified by the intervention in the first year of medical treatment predict differences in clinical endpoints (e.g., survival and recurrence) up to 13 years later.

Erin Costanzo, PhDErin Costanzo, PhD
University of Wisconsin, Madison

Dr. Costanzo is a faculty member in the Department of Psychiatry, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. She is a clinical health psychologist specializing in the care and treatment of individuals coping with cancer and their family members. Dr. Costanzo's research focuses on contributions of psychosocial factors to the health and well-being of cancer patients, and the biobehavioral pathways underlying these relationships, with the translational goal of developing targeted behavioral interventions for individuals with cancer. This work draws on her background in behavioral medicine, psychoneuroimmunology, and cancer control, and benefits from close, multidisciplinary collaborations.

Network Project Description: Dr. Costanzo's project examines gene expression patterns of CD14+ cells as a potential pathway by which stress-related psychosocial factors may influence immune recovery and clinical outcomes following hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT). The study focuses on multiple myeloma patients recovering from autologous HSCT, given evidence for the role of CD14+ derived macrophages in immune recovery as well as angiogenesis, apoptosis, and production of disease-promoting cytokines in this population. The primary aim is to examine the relationship of stress-related psychosocial factors with gene expression patterns of CD14+ cells. The proposed research will help define new molecular mechanisms of biobehavioral influences in the development and progression of hematologic malignancies.

Naomi Eisenberger, PhDNaomi Eisenberger, PhD
University of California, Los Angeles

Dr. Naomi Eisenberger is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at UCLA and the Jeffrey/Wenzel Term Chair in Behavioral Neuroscience. Dr. Eisenberger specializes in social neurocognitive aspects of emotion and behavior. Her primary line of research utilizes neuroimaging techniques to investigate the neural correlates of social rejection and social connection. Through this line of research, she has demonstrated that the experience of social rejection relies, in part, on physical pain-related neural regions and that the experience of social connection relies, in part, on reward-related neural regions. Her work also examines the bidirectional relationships between sensitivity to social rejection and inflammatory activity, which may have implications for depression. Findings have demonstrated that greater social pain-related neural activity in response to social rejection is associated with greater inflammatory responding and that inflammatory activity can lead to increases in felt social disconnection and greater social pain-related neural activity in response to rejection. Dr. Eisenberger, who received her PhD in 2005, has published more than 70 papers including articles in top tier journals (Science, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Nature Neuroscience). Her work has also been recognized with several early career awards included ones from the American Psychosomatic Society, the Association for Psychological Science, and the International Union of Psychological Science.

Network Project Description: In Dr. Eisenberger's project, she will utilize her expertise in social and affective neuroscience to broaden the understanding of fMRI-based research on behavioral probe paradigms and empirical neural activity correlates of social support, attachment, affiliation and related psychological constructs. Her work will set the stage to identify specific psychological/neurobiological pathways that might mediate relationships between social support/attachment and Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) activity in humans.

Don Lamkin, PhDDon Lamkin, PhD
University of California, Los Angeles

Dr. Lamkin is a postdoctoral fellow at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine. He received his PhD in Health Psychology from the University of Iowa. Dr. Lamkin's current research in leukemia is built upon several excellent experiences in laboratories that study cancer biology, immunology, and neural regulation of these systems. Before starting his doctoral research, Dr. Lamkin worked as a research fellow at Indiana University School of Medicine, Evansville Campus, in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology on an ongoing inter-lab project that is researching the potential for a cancer vaccine for melanoma. While completing his PhD, Dr. Lamkin examined the pathways among behavioral stress, immunological mechanisms, and cancer biology at the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center of the University of Iowa. He and his colleagues published multiple articles during that time that delineate several biological mechanisms by which behavioral and stress-related factors may influence immune system pathways and cancer progression. At that time, Dr. Lamkin also investigated the reverse effect that cancer can have on stress-related factors as the Principal Investigator of an NCI R03 grant to develop a preclinical model of cancer-induced inflammation-mediated depression. He and his colleagues published results that showed experimentally-induced cancer can increase levels of systemic proinflammatory IL-6 and behavioral homologues of depression that can be blocked with antidepressants. While previous studies on the neural regulation of cancer biology have focused on solid tumors, Dr. Lamkin's research objective is to expand this area of work to encompass the hematopoietic cancers. To advance that agenda, he went to UCLA as a postdoctoral fellow to work with molecular biologist, Dr. Steve Cole, cancer biologist, Dr. Erica Sloan, and Dr. Kathy Sakamoto—a physician and research scientist who specializes in leukemia. Over the last two years, using a preclinical xenograft model of leukemia, they found that stressor-activated β-adrenergic circuits of the autonomic nervous system can accelerate leukemia tumor burden and dissemination. This line of research will continue to define the mechanisms involved by using animal, cellular, molecular, and immunofluorescent microscopy methods.

Network Project Description: Dr. Lamkin's project will examine a potential downstream mechanism by which β-adrenergic signaling regulates stress-induced acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Specifically, an orthotopic mouse model of human leukemia will be used to elucidate the role of the CXCR4-CXCL12 chemokine system in stress-enhanced ALL progression.

Tor Wager, PhDTor Wager, PhD
University of Colorado, Boulder

Dr. Wager is the director of the Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience laboratory at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He received his PhD from the University of Michigan in cognitive psychology, with a focus in cognitive neuroscience. Dr. Wager has a deep interest in the mechanisms by which thoughts and beliefs influence brain and peripheral processes relevant for health and well being. His laboratory takes a human systems neuroscience approach to studying the creation and regulation of pain, stress, and negative emotion. Approaches include a) experimental studies combining fMRI imaging, behavior, and peripheral physiology; b) large-scale synthesis of neuroimaging findings to develop and constrain models of brain-mind relationships; c) developing new methodological approaches to systems-level analyses of brain data; d) the use of converging methodologies such as Positron Emission Tomography, electroencephalography, and transcranial magnetic stimulation; and e) translational work extending affective neuroscience models to several mental health disorders. Dr. Wager believes that advances in human neuroscience methods, coupled with better synthesis of information on brain function across species, will bring about new ways of understanding the human condition and the factors that create and maintain healthy individuals and societies.

Network Project Description: This project will provide a targeted literature review of fMRI-based research on brain stem control of sympathetic nervous system activity, and its regulation by higher brain (e.g., cortical) regions. The review will specifically identify cortical and sub-cortical brain ROIs and the relevant fMRI probe paradigm tasks suitable for use in subsequent studies relating social support to SNS activation. The review will be delivered in the form of an interactive wiki page. The primary illustration will be a 3-dimensional brain image/cartoon with hyperlinks of brain ROIs that are involved in autonomic nervous system activation in response to stressors.

Last Updated: March 3, 2014

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