To combat leukemia, the most common and deadly childhood cancer, the leading researchers at the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health created CIRCLE – the Center for Integrative Research on Childhood Leukemia and the Environment. Since 2008, the CIRCLE investigators have been discovering how environmental and genetic risk factors interact to cause childhood leukemia with the goal of preventing children from getting the disease.
For over 10 years, the center has been gathering its data from a long-standing National Institutes of Health-funded study in 35 counties of the San Francisco Bay Area and the Central Valley. CIRCLE has also been collecting biospecimens and analyzing data from a California statewide record linkage between birth and cancer registry records, pinpointing all childhood and adolescent cancer cases since 1988.
Leukemia is a rare disease. This makes it difficult to collect information on a large enough number of patients to determine which factors contribute to the risk if getting it. But CIRCLE has found a way to overcome this hurdle.
10 years ago, the CIRCLE leader Catherine Metayer founded the Childhood Leukemia International Consortium a collaboration of over 30 case-control studies from North and South America, Europe, Africa, and Oceania that is able to combine data from many studies to identify risk factors for childhood leukemia.
CIRCLE relies on contributions from stellar scientists, public health experts and patients – the clinical investigators and staff who have helped recruit study participants from their hospitals, the researchers from the Childhood Leukemia International Consortium, the staff from the California Department of Public Health, and, most importantly, the families who have agreed to participate in the research to help find the causes of childhood leukemia.
CIRCLE is jointly funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The Center is directed by Dr. Catherine Metayer (MD, PhD) an Adjunct Professor in the School of Public Health at UC Berkeley.
In addition to the NIEHS-EPA funding, childhood leukemia research conducted by CIRCLE investigators has been partially-supported by the National Cancer Institute, Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, Children with Cancer – UK, and the Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program.