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University of California, Berkeley

Center for Integrative Research on Childhood Leukemia and the Environment (CIRCLE)

Univeristy of California, Berkeley
Catherine Metayer, M.D., Ph.D.

Project Description:

Scientists at the Center for Integrative Research on Childhood Leukemia and the Environment study how exposure to contaminants in the womb and early in life might contribute to leukemia  in children. Research focuses on pesticides, tobacco-related contaminants, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and brominated flame-retardants. The scientists identify chemicals that might increase risk for leukemia and look at how these chemicals interact with genes involved in leukemia.

Center researchers evaluate early environmental exposures using home dust samples and biospecimens from the Northern California Childhood Leukemia Study. They established a network of eight clinical institutions through which they identify and enroll newly diagnosed cases of childhood leukemia.

In remembrance of Patricia Buffler, Ph.D., the esteemed former center director, please see this article  on the UC Berkeley website.

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Project 1: Childhood Leukemia International Consortium studies

Project leader: Catherine Metayer, Ph.D., M.D.


Multiple chemical exposures can interact to dramatically affect the health of children. Using data from 14 case-control studies in 10 countries within the Childhood Leukemia International Consortium, this project is assessing how environmental chemicals contribute to childhood leukemia. The researchers examine links between parental smoking and home pesticide use. They also study genetic variations that affect a child’s ability to process foreign chemicals and the risks for different types of childhood leukemia in different groups of people.

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Project 2: Exposure assessment for childhood leukemia

Project leader: Stephen M. Rappaport, Ph.D.


This project is improving assessment of whether, and when, children have experienced exposure to environmental contaminants. The study builds on data from the Northern California Childhood Leukemia Study by looking at levels of nicotine, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons from combustion, PCBs, and brominated flame-retardants in the blood and in house dust. The investigators use methods newly developed at the University of California, Berkeley, to analyze chemical exposures using dried blood spots collected at birth.

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Project 3: Prenatal exposures, DNA methylation, and childhood leukemia

Project leader: Joseph L. Wiemels, Ph.D.


This project uses newborn dried blood spots from the general population to examine how certain contaminants affect a person’s cells at the molecular level. Understanding how contaminants can change a person’s genetic code and gene expression can help advance methods for early detection of leukemia.

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