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Regul Toxicol Pharmacol. 2011 Jun;60(1 Suppl):S1-34. doi: 10.1016/j.yrtph.2010.10.002. Epub 2010 Nov 19.

A review of mammalian carcinogenicity study design and potential effects of alternate test procedures on the safety evaluation of food ingredients.

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Harvard School of Public Health, 677 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


Extensive experience in conducting long term cancer bioassays has been gained over the past 50 years of animal testing on drugs, pesticides, industrial chemicals, food additives and consumer products. Testing protocols for the conduct of carcinogenicity studies in rodents have been developed in Guidelines promulgated by regulatory agencies, including the US EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), the US FDA (Food and Drug Administration), the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) for the EU member states and the MAFF (Ministries of Agriculture, Forestries and Fisheries) and MHW (Ministry of Health and Welfare) in Japan. The basis of critical elements of the study design that lead to an accepted identification of the carcinogenic hazard of substances in food and beverages is the focus of this review. The approaches used by entities well-known for carcinogenicity testing and/or guideline development are discussed. Particular focus is placed on comparison of testing programs used by the US National Toxicology Program (NTP) and advocated in OECD guidelines to the testing programs of the European Ramazzini Foundation (ERF), an organization with numerous published carcinogenicity studies. This focus allows for a good comparison of differences in approaches to carcinogenicity testing and allows for a critical consideration of elements important to appropriate carcinogenicity study designs and practices. OECD protocols serve as good standard models for carcinogenicity testing protocol design. Additionally, the detailed design of any protocol should include attention to the rationale for inclusion of particular elements, including the impact of those elements on study interpretations. Appropriate interpretation of study results is dependent on rigorous evaluation of the study design and conduct, including differences from standard practices. Important considerations are differences in the strain of animal used, diet and housing practices, rigorousness of test procedures, dose selection, histopathology procedures, application of historical control data, statistical evaluations and whether statistical extrapolations are supported by, or are beyond the limits of, the data generated. Without due consideration, there can be result conflicting data interpretations and uncertainty about the relevance of a study's results to human risk. This paper discusses the critical elements of rodent (rat) carcinogenicity studies, particularly with respect to the study of food ingredients. It also highlights study practices and procedures that can detract from the appropriate evaluation of human relevance of results, indicating the importance of adherence to international consensus protocols, such as those detailed by OECD.

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