Scientific News from the Behavioral Research Program (BRP)
Foreword from Richard Moser and William Riley, Science of Research and Technology
The Science of Research and Technology Branch (SRTB) is the newest branch in the Behavioral Research Program (BRP) at the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The mission of SRTB is to lead and support the development and application of innovative research approaches, theories, methods, measures, analytic tools, and technologies to advance social and behavioral science in the context of cancer prevention and control. The priorities of SRTB are:
- Theory development, testing, and application;
- Measure development and testing, particularly of antecedents to, changes in, and consequences of health behavior;
- Technology development and application;
- Methodological innovation, particularly in analytic approaches;
- Data harmonization and research synthesis; and
- Team science and cross-disciplinary approaches.
To address these priorities, SRTB provides support for research initiatives, grants, workshops, training programs, and various research resources. To learn more, please visit the Science of Research and Technology Branch page.
Sample Cancer Behavioral Research Grant Applications
Program Directors frequently receive requests from investigators for examples of successfully funded grant applications. The BRP is grateful to several investigators for providing a Sample Grant Application as an excellent example of grantsmanship in behavioral research.
|Principal Investigator(s)||Grant Award Number & Grant Application||Title of Project|
|Judy R. Rees, BM, BCh, M.P.H., Ph.D.
|Participant beliefs and bias in a randomized controlled trial
|Wendy Demark-Wahnefried, Ph.D.
University of Alabama at Birmingham
|Vegetable garden feasibility trial to promote function in older cancer survivors
|Mark T. Wallace, Ph.D.
|Multisensory Processing Across Lifespan and Links to Cognition
|Irina Stepanov, Ph.D.
University of Minnesota
|Constituent yields and biomarkers of exposure for tobacco product regulation
|David P. Miller, MD, MS
Wake Forest School of Medicine
|A Primary Care Multilevel mHealth Colorectal Cancer Screening (mCRC) Intervention
Outstanding Investigator Award
NCI recently announced the Outstanding Investigator Award (PAR-14-267). The award gives investigators with outstanding records of productivity in cancer research the freedom to embark on long-term projects of unusual potential in cancer research, the opportunity to take greater risks and be more adventurous in their lines of inquiry, and sufficient time to develop new techniques.
Funded investigators will receive up to $600,000 in direct costs per year for up to seven years to provide funding stability. NCI anticipates making about 50 awards annually.
The Outstanding Investigator Award is intended to provide extended funding stability and encourage investigators to embark on projects of unusual potential in cancer research. The research projects should break new ground or extend previous discoveries toward new directions of applications that may lead to a breakthrough that will advance biomedical, behavioral, or clinical cancer research. Further details, including frequently asked questions, are available online.
Current Funding Opportunities
The following list highlights some of the ongoing research initiatives relevant to behavioral medicine at NIH. A full list of current BRP Funding Opportunity Announcements can be found online.
|Title||Announcement #||Expiration Date||BRP Contact|
Fundamental Mechanisms of Affective and Decisional Processes in Cancer Control
October 15, 2016
Physical activity and weight control interventions among cancer survivors: Effects on biomarkers of prognosis and survival
September 8, 2015
Accelerating the Pace of Drug Abuse Research Using Existing Data
January 8, 2016
Exploratory Studies of Smoking Cessation Interventions for People with Schizophrenia
April 18, 2017
The NCI Health Communication and Informatics Research Branch recently led two funding opportunities on social media and addiction. The research initiative, Using Social Media to Understand and Address Substance Use and Addiction [RFA-CA-14-008 (R01) & RFA-CA-14-009 (R21)] is funded as part of Collaborative Research on Addiction at NIH, a trans-NIH partnership with the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). The funding plan was approved by NCI Scientific Program Leadership in July 2014, and grant awards will be made this fall.
BRP funds a large portfolio of grants and contracts. The portfolio currently includes more than 330 grants valued at more than $166 million. Major funding areas include research project grants, Cancer Funding Centers and Centers of Excellence, and Research & Development contracts. Although many investigator-initiated (unsolicited) applications are received for new, expanded, and/or high-priority programs, BRP may also support grant applications through Program Announcements or Requests for Applications in specific areas of interest. BRP Program Directors can advise you throughout the application process from development of your idea through submission and review.
The Office of Behavioral and Social Science Research is seeking a new Director who would function as the NIH Associate Director for Behavioral and Social Science Research. Applications are due to Adia McCray by October 30, 2014. A full list of BRP Fellowship and Career Postings can be found online.
Please join us in welcoming our newest member to the BRP team!
Dr. Rachel Grana Mayne, Ph.D., M.P.H., is a new Program Director in the Tobacco Control Research Branch (TCRB) within the BRP of the Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences (DCCPS). Grana’s research interests lie in examining behavioral factors associated with smoking and cessation and the phenomena of dual and polyuse of tobacco products, including novel products such as electronic-cigarettes.
This past month, the BRP lost a dear friend and colleague. Dr. Abby Prestin was a former Fellow in the Health Communication and Informatics Research Branch, and more recently, a key collaborator in tobacco product regulation. Part of her journey was covered by the Washington Post this past spring.
“Dr. Prestin’s contributions in communication and psychological influence in cancer control will have a lasting impact on public health. Abby’s brilliant spirit and friendship has also made a lasting impression on those of us who were fortunate to know her.” ~ Bradford Hesse, Branch Chief and former mentor.
Smokers May Get Cravings With E-Cigarettes
In a study supported by NCI and published online in Tobacco Control, researchers examined whether exposure to someone using an electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) or a combustible cigarette would cue the desire and urge to smoke a combustible cigarette in a sample of young adult daily combustible cigarette smokers. They found that exposure to a person using an e-cigarette increased the desire to smoke a combustible cigarette. Exposure to someone smoking a combustible cigarette also increased the desire to smoke a combustible cigarette, as expected. The study is of importance, as e-cigarette use has been increasing among both adults and youth, and likely increasing numbers of people are observing the behavior. It is important to recognize that simply seeing e-cigarette use might promote combustible cigarette smoking behavior among young adult smokers.
Reference: King, A. C., et al. (2014). Passive exposure to electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) use increases desire for combustible and e-cigarettes in young adult smokers. Tobacco Control, Published Online First: [July 29 2014] doi: 10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2014-051563
More Americans Surviving Cancer
An article published by CBS News cites NCI’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program (SEER) data and a DCCPS-funded study in Cancer on unemployment among breast cancer survivors. According to the article, cancer survival rates are improving; almost 14.5 million Americans with a history of cancer were alive at the start of 2014. This number is expected to grow to almost 19 million by 2024. The findings are also published in the American Cancer Society’s “Cancer Treatment & Survivorship Facts & Figures, 2014–2015”. Increased survivorship occurs for various reasons, from better screening efforts to effective cancer therapies. However, the article warns that the growth in the number of cancer survivors warrants greater attention to the long-term physical and emotional challenges that individuals with cancer histories often experience. Cancer survivors are at a higher risk for numerous health issues, including ongoing fatigue, cardiovascular diseases like heart failure, diabetes, or memory problems. Additionally, psychological and emotional challenges such as depression and anxiety are common in the years after successful cancer treatment. Keeping a job can be particularly difficult; the recent DCCPS-funded study found that 30 percent of breast cancer survivors who had jobs at the start of treatment were unemployed just four years later. It is increasingly important that patient care in the future includes interventions to improve the physical, emotional, cognitive, and financial health of cancer survivors.
References: American Cancer Society. (2014). Cancer Treatment and Survivorship Facts & Figures 2014-2015. Atlanta, GA: American Cancer Society.
Firger, J. (2014). “More Americans surviving cancer than ever.” CBS News, 2 June 2014.
Jagsi, R., Hawley, S. T., Abrahamse P, Li, Y., Janz, N. K., Griggs, J. J., Bradley, C., Graff, J. J., Hamilton, A, & Katz, S. J. (2014). Impact of adjuvant chemotherapy on long-term employment of survivors of early-stage breast cancer. Cancer. doi: 10.1002/cncr.29607
Texting and Quitting Success
An ABC News article highlights findings from an NCI-supported study of a text message-delivered intervention for smoking cessation. The randomized controlled trial, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, evaluated Text2Quit, an interactive mobile health program that sends personalized text messages with advice, support, and reminders about quitting smoking. Smokers who received the text messaging intervention were more than twice as likely to quit successfully, compared to a control group who received self-help materials. Biochemically confirmed abstinence rates at the 6-month follow-up were 11.1 percent in the Text2Quit group, versus just 5 percent in the control group. In the United States, a number of text messaging services for smoking cessation are publicly available, including SmokefreeTXT, a national service launched by NCI in 2011. Dr. Michael Fiore, a smoking cessation expert from the University of Wisconsin-Madison who was not involved in the study, told ABC News that technology-based tools like these can make it easier for smokers to find support when they are ready to quit.
References: Abroms, L. C., Boal, A. L, Simmens, S. J., Mendel, J. A., & Windsor, R. A. (2014). A randomized trial of Text2Quit: A text messaging program for smoking cessation. American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
Wang, K. “Texting Therapy Doubles Success in Quitting Smoking.” ABC News, 7 June 2014.
Perceptions of Cigarettes and E-Cigarettes Harm
BRP collaborators co-authored a paper in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine supplement, “Using the National Youth Tobacco Survey to Inform Tobacco Product Regulation and Tobacco Control.” Using data from the 2012 National Youth Tobacco Survey, the study examines patterns of cigarette and e-cigarette harm perceptions among U.S. middle and high school students. The findings showed that the majority of youth perceived that the harm of cigarettes was dependent upon frequency and intensity of cigarette smoking. Youth who perceived a continuum of cigarette harm were also more likely to perceive e-cigarettes as less harmful than conventional cigarettes, compared to youth who had consistently high perceptions of cigarette harm. Results show that youth who perceive there to be gradations of conventional cigarette harm may be more susceptible to using e-cigarette products.
Reference: Ambrose, B. K., Rostron, B. L., Johnson, S. E., Portnoy, D. B., Apelberg, B. J., Kaufman, A. R., & Choiniere, C. J. (2014). Perceptions of the relative harm of cigarettes and e-cigarettes among U.S. youth. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 47(2, Suppl 1): S53–S60.
A paper in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, co-authored by BRP members, uses NCI’s Health Information National Trends Survey (HINTS) data to examine the use and impact of eHealth strategies among vulnerable populations. The current paper investigates eHealth use by sociodemographic factors among Internet users and found significant differences in use by socioeconomic status.
Reference: Kontos, E., Blake, K. D., Wen-Ying, S. C., & Prestin, A. (2014). Predictors of eHealth usage: Insights on the digital divide from the Health Information National Trends Survey 2012. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 16(7): e172. doi: 10.2196/jmir.3117
Extreme Obesity and Life Expectancy
A study led by Dr. Cari Kitahara of the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, and published in PLOS Medicine, found that adults with extreme obesity (class III, 40 kg/m or higher) have a significantly reduced life expectancy compared to people of normal weight. These individuals are more likely to die at a younger age from diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and influenza/pneumonia. The risk of dying overall rose continuously with increasing BMI in the class III obesity group; years of life lost varied from 6.5 years for those in the 40 to 44.9 kg/m range, to 13.7 years for those in the 55 to 59.9 kg/m range. The analysis pooled data from 20 large studies of people from three countries.
Reference: Kitahara, C. M., et al. (2013). Association between Class III obesity (BMI of 40-59 kg/m) and mortality: A pooled analysis of 20 prospective studies. PLOS Medicine. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1001673
Surgeon General Calls for Reduced Skin Cancer
The New York Times reported the U.S. Surgeon General’s call to action on skin cancer in July. Several members of DCCPS, including Anne Hartman, Frank Perna, Laura Dwyer, and Robin Yabroff, contributed expertise to the initiative. Citing the nearly 5 million Americans treated for skin cancer each year and the $8 billion annual price tag, the report urges individuals to do more to reduce sun exposure. Each year approximately 9,000 people die from melanoma, and rates of skin cancer have increased dramatically since the 1970s. The report calls for people of all skin colors to follow standard advice to reduce sun exposure (including using protective clothing and sunscreen). It also declares that tanning-bed use may be contributing to a large portion of skin cancer cases and notes that this type of ultraviolet radiation exposure is “completely avoidable.”
References: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2014). The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent Skin Cancer. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Surgeon General.
Tavernise, S. “Surgeon general calls for action to reduce skin cancer.” The New York Times. 29 July 2014.
Cancer Survivor Smoking
An article published in USA Today cites results in Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention that show that almost 1 in 10 long-term cancer survivors are current smokers. Researchers examined smoking prevalence and quit intentions in a cross-sectional sample of cancer survivors nine years after their initial cancer diagnosis. Smoking prevalence was particularly high among those who had cancers that are linked to tobacco use, for example lung and bladder cancer. The majority of the cancer-survivor smoker population was daily smokers; they smoked an average of 15 cigarettes per day. However, a sizeable minority were non-daily smokers. In the study, 47 percent of cancer survivors said they were planning to quit, another 43 percent were unsure, and 10 percent had no plans to quit. Non-daily smoking was associated with planning to quit sooner rather than later, suggesting that this group might be especially receptive to cessation interventions. The USA Today article notes the BRP’s smokefree.gov as a cessation resource.
References: Painter, K. “Nearly 10 percent of cancer survivors smoke, despite risks” USA Today, August 6, 2014.
Westmaas, J. L., Alcaraz, K. I., Berg, C. J., & Stein, K. D. (2014). Prevalence and correlates of smoking and cessation-related behavior among survivors of ten cancers: Findings from a nationwide survey nine years after diagnosis. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-14-0046
Resources and Research Tools
Crosstalk Symposium 2014: “Leveraging Lessons Learned Across Behavioral Domains”
The 2014 Crosstalk Symposium will take place at NCI in Rockville, MD, on October 30, 2014. The symposium will feature experts from the field who will share cutting-edge examples of work that applies knowledge from one behavioral domain to one or more other behavioral domains. Participants will come away with an understanding of the utility of cross-domain behavioral research, as well as a toolkit of practical strategies for leveraging "crosstalk" in their own research.
Grid-Enabled Measures (GEM) is a dynamic, Web-based collaborative tool. It contains behavioral, social science, and other relevant measures organized by theoretical constructs. The goal of GEM is to support and encourage a community of users to build consensus on best measures, incorporate these measures into their studies, and share the resulting harmonized data. Based upon a wiki platform, users contribute to the website by adding and editing information about measures and associated constructs, and by providing feedback and ratings on these measures and constructs in GEM. One new feature on GEM are workspaces where users can create and administer their own initiatives to collaborate with others around a specific topic to examine existing measures, learn about new measures, and ultimately achieve consensus on the use of common measures. Consider starting your own initiative by submitting a workspace request form found on the GEM website.
Team Science Toolkit
The Team Science Toolkit is a “one-stop shop” for resources to help users conduct, lead, manage, facilitate, or support team-based research. Toolkit resources address the interests of a wide range of Team Science (TS) stakeholders, such as investigators and community and translational partners; administrators at academic institutions, businesses, and other organizations; funding agency staff; Science of Team Science (SciTS) scholars and evaluators; and those seeking to learn more about TS and the SciTS field. The Toolkit contains three main types of resources: (1) practical tools to enhance, support, or facilitate TS; (2) measures and methods for studying or evaluating TS; and (3) TS-relevant publications and bibliographic citations, including scholarly publications and gray literature (e.g., unpublished technical reports). Additional resources in the Toolkit include background information to the SciTS field, recommended key SciTS resources, and a blog written by a rotating group of invited experts. Capitalizing on the collective knowledge of the growing community of stakeholders interested in team-based research, the Toolkit allows any user to upload publicly accessible resources.
Decision-Making Steering Committee & Webinars
The BRP has established the Decision-Making Steering Committee to identify and promote research areas to advance public health with regard to behavior change and cancer prevention and control. External expert consultants assist in the formulation of these priority-setting efforts in decision science and participated in webinars to share their knowledge in prevention, treatment, or recovery when significant decision-making challenges arise for the patient, their family, or health care professionals.