A Framework for Human Relevance Analysis of Information on Carcinogenic Modes of Action

M. E. Meek, John R. Bucher, Samuel M. Cohen, Vicki Dellarco, Richard N. Hill, Lois D. Lehman-McKeeman, David G. Longfellow, Timothy Pastoor, Jennifer Seed, Dorothy E. Patton

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

403 Scopus citations


The human relevance framework (HRF) outlines a four-part process, beginning with data on the mode of action (MOA) in laboratory animals, for evaluating the human relevance of animal tumors. Drawing on U.S. EPA and IPCS proposals for animal MOA analysis, the HRF expands those analyses to include a systematic evaluation of comparability, or lack of comparability, between the postulated animal MOA and related information from human data sources. The HRF evolved through a series of case studies representing several different MOAs. HRF analyses produced divergent outcomes, some leading to complete risk assessment and others discontinuing the process, according to the data available from animal and human sources. Two case examples call for complete risk assessments. One is the default: When data are insufficient to confidently postulate a MOA for test animals, the animal tumor data are presumed to be relevant for risk assessment and a complete risk assessment is necessary. The other is the product of a data-based finding that the animal MOA is relevant to humans. For the specific MOA and endpoint combinations studied for this article, full risk assessments are necessary for potentially relevant MOAs involving cytotoxicity and cell proliferation in animals and humans (Case Study 6, chloroform) and formation of urinary-tract calculi (Case Study 7, melamine). In other circumstances, when data-based findings for the chemical and endpoint combination studied indicate that the tumor-related animal MOA is unlikely to have a human counterpart, there is little reason to continue the risk assessment for that combination. Similarly, when qualitative considerations identify MOAs specific to the test species or quantitative considerations indicate that the animal MOA is unlikely to occur in humans, such hazard findings are generally conclusive and further risk assessment is not necessary for the endpoint-MOA combination under study. Case examples include a tumor-related protein specific to test animals (Case Study 3, d-limonene), the tumor consequences of hormone suppression typical of laboratory animals but not humans (Case Study 4, atrazine), and chemical-related enhanced hormone clearance rates in animals relative to humans (Case Study 5, phenobarbital). The human relevance analysis is highly specific for the chemical-MOA-tissue- endpoint combination under analysis in any particular case: different tissues, different endpoints, or alternative MOAs for a given chemical may result in different human relevance findings. By providing a systematic approach to using MOA data, the HRF offers a new tool for the scientific community's overall effort to enhance the predictive power, reliability and transparency of cancer risk assessment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)591-653
Number of pages63
JournalCritical reviews in toxicology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2003


  • Acrylonitrile
  • Atrazine
  • Carcinogenic mode of action
  • Chloroform
  • Ethylene oxide
  • Human relevance of animal carcinogens
  • Melamine
  • Phenobarbital
  • Risk assessment
  • d-limonene

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology


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