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Leukemia researchers skeptical of finding Fallon cluster cause

FALLON, Nev. (AP) – Experts monitoring the Fallon leukemia cluster admit the chances of finding the cause of the cluster are slim.

”The more I hear about the investigation, the more I believe there will not be a definitive conclusion,” scientist Les Robison said. ”We don’t go into this thinking that.

Robison, director of the University of Minnesota’s division of pediatric epidemiology and clinical research, is often asked to investigate clusters and generally declines.



”Clusters occur continually across the country,” he said. ”There’s never been a cluster that identified a single source.”

But Fallon’s cluster is ”not typical,” and includes 14 children, all but one suffering from the same form of leukemia – acute lymphocytic leukemia. The cluster erupted in one year and is larger than most clusters, he said.



One child died of the disease in June.

While a solution might not be evident, he said the cluster could offer researchers insight into why children get leukemia.

”After 30 years of research, we know very little,” Robison said. ”Cancer epidemiologists spend their careers trying to find causes.”

”If this is trying to tell us something, we can’t miss the opportunity to listen,” he said.

Robison joined state officials and other experts in Fallon on Monday and Tuesday in a series of meetings on the mysterious cluster.

The group fielded questions from about 60 Churchill County residents.

Thomas Sinks, associate director for science at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Environmental Health, said the CDC should begin its investigation in mid-August. Officials will test Churchill County residents and will be looking ”for evidence to support or refute what could have contributed to this cluster,” Sinks said.


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