Biostatistical Methods for the Validation of Alternative Methods for In Vitro Toxicity Testing

Lutz Edler and Carina Ittrich

Statistical methods for the validation of toxicological in vitro test assays are developed and applied. Validation is performed either in comparison with in vivo assays or in comparison with other in vitro assays of established validity. Biostatistical methods are presented which are of potential use and benefit for the validation of alternative methods for the risk assessment of chemicals, providing at least an equivalent level of protection through in vitro toxicity testing to that obtained through the use of current in vivo methods. Characteristic indices are developed and determined. Qualitative outcomes are characterised by the rates of false-positive and false-negative predictions, sensitivity and specificity, and predictive values. Quantitative outcomes are characterised by regression coefficients derived from predictive models. The receiver operating characteristics (ROC) technique, applicable when a continuum of cut-off values is considered, is discussed in detail, in relation to its use for statistical modelling and statistical inference. The methods presented are examined for their use for the proof of safety and for toxicity detection and testing. We emphasise that the final validation of toxicity testing is human toxicity, and that the in vivo test itself is only a predictor with an inherent uncertainty. Therefore, the validation of the in vitro test has to account for the vagueness and uncertainty of the “gold standard” in vivo test. We address model selection and model validation, and a four-step scheme is proposed for the conduct of validation studies. Gaps and research needs are formulated to improve the validation of alternative methods for in vitro toxicity testing.
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