A fast, accurate and cost-effective approach has been developed to assess the carcinogenicity of chemicals, i.e. to check whether exposure to a chemical increases a person's long-term cancer risk or not, reveals a new study.
As a result, the research team has generated one of the largest toxicogenomics datasets to date, and have made the data and results publicly accessible. The research team from Boston University Schools of Medicine (BUSM) and Public Health have developed and evaluated this new approach.
Despite significant investments into cancer research over the last decades, approximately 1.7 million new cancer cases and 600,000 cancers deaths were estimated in the U.S. in 2017 alone. Of these, 90-95 percent were not attributable to known heritable genetic factors, making environmental exposures a major suspect in these cases.
According to the researchers, of the tens of thousands of chemicals in commercial use, only a small number (less than two percent) have been thoroughly tested for their potential carcinogenicity, in part due to the extremely costly and time-consuming nature of the current chemical screening process.
"The method we developed, once further optimized and validated, would provide for a fast and cost-effective approach to the prioritization of chemicals for further (more expensive/extensive) testing. Addionally, our approach could be easily extended to evaluate adverse effects of exposure other than carcinogenicity such as endocrine disruption, metabolic disruption, etc.," explained corresponding author Stefano Monti, PhD, associate professor of medicine at BUSM.
Although more work needs to be done before this approach can be applied in regulatory and clinical settings, the researchers hope this study will stimulate others to take on the challenge and to join the effort to develop more cost-effective approaches to chemical screening and the consequent elimination of hazardous substances from the environment.