NIH Press Release
National Institute of
Environmental Health Sciences

Thursday, Mar. 13, 1997

Bill Grigg
(919) 541-2605

U.S. Agencies Agree on How to Bring Alternative Testing Methods Into Use
to Supplement, Replace or Improve Current Tests

Representatives of U.S. health and safety agencies have agreed on criteria for validating new, or "alternative," test methods for testing chemicals and other materials to supplement, replace or improve current methods, such as the traditional two-year rodent bioassay.

In a new, published report, the representatives spell out how potential test methods should be evaluated to show how comparable they are to current methods, as well as what their limitations may be, if any, and what advantages in time and accuracy they provide.

New methods proposed for testing substances for carcinogenicity, mutagenicity and other harmful effects include those that would provide results faster and cheaper, with fewer animals and with improved accuracy. Such tests may involve genetically modified mice, tissue, bacteria and fish, as well as computer simulations and other analyses.

The criteria for validating and accepting alternative test methods are contained in a report of the ad hoc Interagency Coordinating Committee on the Validation of Alternative Methods, NIH Publication 97-3981.

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Toxicology Program headquartered within it established the coordinating committee in 1994 with the participation of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Departments of Agriculture, Defense, Energy, Interior, Labor and Transportation, as well as the Department of Health and Human Services and such constituent parts as the Food and Drug Administration, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and parts of the National Institutes of Health.

The ad hoc Interagency Coordinating Committee on the Validation of Alternative Methods, according to the report, will be replaced by a standing ICCVAM to coordinate the validation and acceptance of new methods. To work with this governmental standing committee and with a new advisory committee that will include public representation, NIEHS plans a small Center for the Evaluation of Alternative Toxicological Methods. Plans call for it to facilitate the review and adoption of new methods.

The general public may request copies in writing from the NTP liaison office, A3-01, PO Box 12233, Research Triangle Park, N.C. 27709. These copies will be mailed as copies from a large press run become available.

Limited Press Copies of the ICCVAM Report are available by calling Alma Britton of the National Toxicology Program liaison and scientific review office, 919/541-0530. A brief description of the plans for the new center and an article, "Animal Use Alternatives In Research and Testing" from the March issue of the journal Lab Animal are also available to the press from the liaison office.