New project launched to investigate links between childhood leukemia and environmental exposures

National Cancer Institute photo by Bill Branson

A UC Berkeley-led research team will search for causes of leukemia — the most common cancer in children — with a new, four-year, $6 million grant from the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

The project will be led by UC Berkeley’s Stephen Rappaport, an expert in research on the “exposome,” which refers to the totality of exposures to an individual from within and from the outside environment over the course of a lifetime. Rappaport optimizes lab protocols for using a technique called mass spectrometry to quantify thousands of chemicals found in blood samples, analogous to the way geneticists now can scan the entire genome for mutations. The CIRCLE team may identify new associations between prenatal chemical exposures and childhood leukemia using these refined methods.

The award marks the second round of funding for the Berkeley-based Center for Integrative Research on Childhood Leukemia and the Environment (CIRCLE), directed by Catherine Metayer, a professor of epidemiology with UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health.