Important Cancer-Tracking Registry to Locate at UCSF

Greater Bay Area Cancer Registry Identifies Cancer Trends and Tracks the Burden of Cancer in the Region

By Elizabeth Fernandez

Map of registry's region.
Map shows the registry's region. Credit: Greater Bay Area Cancer Registry.

The Greater Bay Area Cancer Registry, which has been at the forefront of cancer data collection throughout the region for more than 40 years and has helped lead to improved state and national understanding of cancer, is moving its headquarters and management to UC San Francisco.   

The registry, comprising 37 staff members, is being transferred from the Cancer Prevention Institute of California (CPIC), located in Fremont and Berkeley, which is disbanding as an independent cancer research institute.   

The institute conducts essential monitoring of cancer occurrence and mortality in the Bay Area, gathering information about all cancers diagnosed or treated in the region and identifying the cancer burden and risk factors, as well as the impact of cancer control programs.   

Registry data are collected from some 60 hospitals and more than 8,400 physicians, as well as radiation oncology centers and independent pathology laboratories, in nine counties: Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Monterey, San Benito, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz. 

Scarlett Lin Gomez.
Scarlett Lin Gomez, PhD, director of the Greater Bay Area Cancer Registry.

“The registry has always been a public resource and is widely used to document and track cancer burden in communities, to plan research programs and projects, and to address emerging research,” said Scarlett Lin Gomez, PhD, a UCSF professor and director of the Greater Bay Area Cancer Registry. “But with the registry now housed at UCSF, there is much greater potential for collaborations with UCSF researchers, to partner with scientists across the campus to fully leverage our population-based data towards the goal of reducing inequities across our diverse population.”

In systematically collecting cancer information throughout a region of more than 7 million people, the Greater Bay Area Cancer Registry (GBACR) has provided detailed evaluations of trends in cancer occurrence, including by meaningful tumor subtypes, and contributed significant ethnic diversity to the national cancer database, including populations disproportionately affected by cancer. The registry also has provided a data backbone for sophisticated analyses of regional cancer patterns, as well as numerous population-based regional and national studies, such as closely monitoring the historically high rates of breast cancer in Marin County and the rest of the Bay Area.   

Image of Alan Ashworth
Alan Ashworth, PhD, FRS, president of the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center.

“Thanks to its mission, leadership and scientific rigor over four decades, Greater Bay Area Cancer Registry data underpin some of the key research milestones in our understanding of cancer incidence and outcomes,” said Alan Ashworth, PhD, FRS, president of the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center. “With our focus on precision public health, precision medicine and molecular biomarker research, UCSF is the right institution to lead and operate the GBACR as it evolves into areas of more complex surveillance.” 

The Bay Area registry is one of the oldest in the nation, and since 1973, has been part of the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) program, which monitors the cancer burden throughout the United States and supports cancer research. 

Since 1988, the registry has been designated as a regional registry of the California Cancer Registry (CCR).

The UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center and the UCSF Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics will jointly manage the cancer registry. The same staff that managed the registry at CPIC will continue to manage the registry under UCSF. 

Partnering with health departments, community advocacy groups, clinicians and other stakeholders, the registry has played a critical role in tracking patterns of breast cancer in the Bay Area, a region with historically one of the highest breast cancer rates in the country. Additionally, focused surveillance studies have looked at the incidence of melanoma among young men and women, producing data that have been used to support tanning bed legislation. Registry data also debunked the myth of a low cancer burden among Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders as a whole.

“Our registry has made significant contributions to SEER’s and CCR’s mission of tracking changes in cancer incidence, mortality, and survival by providing high-quality cancer information,” Gomez said.  

A primary emphasis of the registry is to help communities better understand their cancer risks. Toward that end, the registry has been involved in the San Francisco Cancer Initiative (SF CAN), a major public health initiative in San Francisco. The project targets the five most common cancers which collectively account for half of all new cancers in San Francisco: breast, lung and other tobacco-related cancers, prostate, colorectal, and liver cancer.

UCSF conceived the SF CAN initiative, which launched in November 2016, and provides ongoing scientific expertise. Cancer registry data have been used to document the current status of cancer incidence and mortality in San Francisco, and registry researchers have developed approaches for quantifying cancer in specific areas across the city that will help lead to targeted interventions. 

Image of Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo
Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, MD, PhD, chair of the UCSF Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics and vice dean for Population Health and Health Equity in the UCSF School of Medicine

“Having access to population-based cancer registry data, as well as the expertise of the team with decades of experience working with integrated big data, will help propel many UCSF population health initiatives locally, nationally, and worldwide,” said Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, MD, PhD, chair of the UCSF Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics and vice dean for Population Health and Health Equity in the UCSF School of Medicine. “The diversity of these data and the research they will inform has the potential to help populations around the world, including in regions that are currently understudied and underserved.” 

This project has been funded by the National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services, under contract number HHSN261201800010I.

In May, the NCI awarded CPIC a 10-year SEER Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contract and Task Order #1 that may potentially result in more than $49 million over 10 years. Both awards now will be under the auspices of UCSF (IDIQ contract #HHSN261201800010I; Task Order #1, HHSN26100001). 

The GBACR is also funded by Grant Agreement 18-10371 from the California Department of Public Health. 

Media contact for the Cancer Prevention Institute of California: Donna Lock, 510-608-5160, [email protected] 

UC San Francisco (UCSF) is a leading university dedicated to promoting health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care. It includes top-ranked graduate schools of dentistry, medicine, nursing and pharmacy; a graduate division with nationally renowned programs in basic, biomedical, translational and population sciences; and a preeminent biomedical research enterprise. It also includes UCSF Health, which comprises three top-ranked hospitals – UCSF Medical Center and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals in San Francisco and Oakland – as well as Langley Porter Psychiatric Hospital and Clinics, UCSF Benioff Children’s Physicians and the UCSF Faculty Practice. UCSF Health has affiliations with hospitals and health organizations throughout the Bay Area. UCSF faculty also provide all physician care at the public Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center, and the SF VA Medical Center. The UCSF Fresno Medical Education Program is a major branch of the University of California, San Francisco’s School of Medicine.