bioassay

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Transgenic Mouse Bioassays for Carcinogenicity Testing: A Step in the Right Direction?

Anne-Marie van Zeller and Robert D. Combes

The relevance of the rodent bioassay for assessing human risk to carcinogens has long been questioned. This has prompted several regulatory authorities and the International Conference on Harmonisation (ICH) to discuss the need for studies in two rodent species. Currently, six alternative tests are being evaluated in an interlaboratory collaborative study being organised by the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI). These tests include four transgenic carcinogenicity assays in mice (the c-Ha-ras, Tg.AC, p53+/– and XPA systems). These assays are discussed in this review, and it is concluded that, to date, the data suggest that none of these assays is appropriate for inclusion in a carcinogenicity testing strategy. It is suggested that more emphasis should be placed on developing replacement alternative assays which are capable of identifying and characterising carcinogens of human relevance, rather than focusing on tests which are likely to merely duplicate the results of the rodent chronic bioassay. In this respect, the outcome of studies using the Syrian Hamster Embryo cell transformation assay, also being evaluated as part of the ILSI programme, will be of great interest. Ultimately, it is expected that cell transformation systems based on human cells will provide useful data for predicting human hazard from carcinogen exposures, and efforts to develop such systems should be encouraged.
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Animal Carcinogenicity Studies: 1. Poor Human Predictivity

Andrew Knight, Jarrod Bailey and Jonathan Balcombe

The regulation of human exposure to potentially carcinogenic chemicals constitutes society’s most important use of animal carcinogenicity data. Environmental contaminants of greatest concern within the USA are listed in the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) chemicals database. However, of the 160 IRIS chemicals lacking even limited human exposure data but possessing animal data that had received a human carcinogenicity assessment by 1 January 2004, we found that in most cases (58.1%; 93/160), the EPA considered animal carcinogenicity data inadequate to support a classification of probable human carcinogen or non-carcinogen. For the 128 chemicals with human or animal data also assessed by the World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), human carcinogenicity classifications were compatible with EPA classifications only for those 17 having at least limited human data (p = 0.5896). For those 111 primarily reliant on animal data, the EPA was much more likely than the IARC to assign carcinogenicity classifications indicative of greater human risk (p < 0.0001). The IARC is a leading international authority on carcinogenicity assessments, and its significantly different human carcinogenicity classifications of identical chemicals indicate that: 1) in the absence of significant human data, the EPA is over-reliant on animal carcinogenicity data; 2) as a result, the EPA tends to over-predict carcinogenic risk; and 3) the true predictivity for human carcinogenicity of animal data is even poorer than is indicated by EPA figures alone. The EPA policy of erroneously assuming that tumours in animals are indicative of human carcinogenicity is implicated as a primary cause of these errors.
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Animal Carcinogenicity Studies: 2. Obstacles to Extrapolation of Data to Humans

Andrew Knight, Jarrod Bailey and Jonathan Balcombe

Due to limited human exposure data, risk classification and the consequent regulation of exposure to potential carcinogens has conventionally relied mainly upon animal tests. However, several investigations have revealed animal carcinogenicity data to be lacking in human predictivity. To investigate the reasons for this, we surveyed 160 chemicals possessing animal but not human exposure data within the US Environmental Protection Agency chemicals database, but which had received human carcinogenicity assessments by 1 January 2004. We discovered the use of a wide variety of species, with rodents predominating, and of a wide variety of routes of administration, and that there were effects on a particularly wide variety of organ systems. The likely causes of the poor human predictivity of rodent carcinogenicity bioassays include: 1) the profound discordance of bioassay results between rodent species, strains and genders, and further, between rodents and human beings; 2) the variable, yet substantial, stresses caused by handling and restraint, and the stressful routes of administration common to carcinogenicity bioassays, and their effects on hormonal regulation, immune status and predisposition to carcinogenesis; 3) differences in rates of absorption and transport mechanisms between test routes of administration and other important human routes of exposure; 4) the considerable variability of organ systems in response to carcinogenic insults, both between and within species; and 5) the predisposition of chronic high dose bioassays toward false positive results, due to the overwhelming of physiological defences, and the unnatural elevation of cell division rates during ad libitum feeding studies. Such factors render profoundly difficult any attempts to accurately extrapolate human carcinogenic hazards from animal data.
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Animal Carcinogenicity Studies: 3. Alternatives to the Bioassay

Andrew Knight, Jarrod Bailey and Jonathan Balcombe

Conventional animal carcinogenicity tests take around three years to design, conduct and interpret. Consequently, only a tiny fraction of the thousands of industrial chemicals currently in use have been tested for carcinogenicity. Despite the costs of hundreds of millions of dollars and millions of skilled personnel hours, as well as millions of animal lives, several investigations have revealed that animal carcinogenicity data lack human specificity (i.e. the ability to identify human non-carcinogens), which severely limits the human predictivity of the bioassay. This is due to the scientific inadequacies of many carcinogenicity bioassays, and numerous serious biological obstacles, which render profoundly difficult any attempts to accurately extrapolate animal data in order to predict carcinogenic hazards to humans. Proposed modifications to the conventional bioassays have included the elimination of mice as a second species, and the use of genetically-altered or neonatal mice, decreased study durations, initiation–promotion models, the greater incorporation of toxicokinetic and toxicodynamic assessments, structure-activity relationship (computerised) systems, in vitro assays, cDNA microarrays for detecting changes in gene expression, limited human clinical trials, and epidemiological research. The potential advantages of nonanimal assays when compared to bioassays include the superior human specificity of the results, substantially reduced time-frames, and greatly reduced demands on financial, personnel and animal resources. Inexplicably, however, the regulatory agencies have been frustratingly slow to adopt alternative protocols. In order to decrease the enormous cost of cancer to society, a substantial redirection of resources away from excessively slow and resource-intensive rodent bioassays, into the further development and implementation of non-animal assays, is both strongly justified and urgently required.
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Animal Carcinogenicity Studies: Implications for the REACH System

Andrew Knight, Jarrod Bailey and Jonathan Balcombe

The 2001 European Commission proposal for the Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals (REACH) aims to improve public and environmental health by assessing the toxicity of, and restricting exposure to, potentially toxic chemicals. The greatest benefits are expected to accrue from decreased cancer incidences. Hence the accurate identification of chemical carcinogens must be a top priority for the REACH system. Due to a paucity of human clinical data, the identification of potential human carcinogens has conventionally relied on animal tests. However, our survey of the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) toxic chemicals database revealed that, for a majority of the chemicals of greatest public health concern (93/160, i.e. 58.1%), the EPA found animal carcinogenicity data to be inadequate to support classifications of probable human carcinogen or non-carcinogen. A wide variety of species were used, with rodents predominating; a wide variety of routes of administration were used; and a particularly wide variety of organ systems were affected. These factors raise serious biological obstacles that render accurate extrapolation to humans profoundly difficult. Furthermore, significantly different International Agency for Research on Cancer assessments of identical chemicals, indicate that the true human predictivity of animal carcinogenicity data is even poorer than is indicated by the EPA figures alone. Consequently, we propose the replacement of animal carcinogenicity bioassays with a tiered combination of non-animal assays, which can be expected to yield a weight-of-evidence characterisation of carcinogenic risk with superior human predictivity. Additional advantages include substantial savings of financial, human and animal resources, and potentially greater insights into mechanisms of carcinogenicity.
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The Use of Bioassays for the Risk Assessment of Toxic Leachates: An Experimental Study

Natalya Irha and Irina Blinova

Solid wastes from the oil-shale industry produce leachates containing toxic compounds such as heavy metals and persistent polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH). The hazard to the environment represented by waste leachates depends not only on their chemical composition, but also on the mobility and bioavailability of toxic contaminants in soils. We evaluated the applicability of bioassays for toxicity assessment of the bioavailable fraction of heavy metals and PAH in soils, in experiments with samples of four different soil types (Rendzina, Brown pseudopodzolic, Typical brown, Sodpodzolic), the pH of which ranged from 6.2 to 7.2. The toxicity of the bioavailable fraction of the soil contaminants was assessed with the dehydrogenase enzyme activity assay, and with a Toxkit microbiotest with the crustacean, Thamnocephalus platyurus, after treatment of the soil samples with an artificial solution containing chromium (III), lead (II),
copper (II), cadmium (II) and pyrene. The test results confirm those of earlier experiments, which characterised the sorption potential of investigated soils for the same compounds. Both tests turned out to be sufficiently sensitive, and hence can be recommended as effective and useful tools for the assessment of the bioavailable fraction of soil contaminants.
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