In vitro approaches to determine the potential carcinogenic risk of environmental pollutants.

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One important environmental/health challenge is to determine, in a feasible way, the potential carcinogenic risk associated with environmental agents/exposures. Since a significant proportion of tumors have an environmental origin, detecting the potential carcinogenic risk of environmental agents is mandatory, as regulated by national and international agencies. The challenge mainly implies finding a way of how to overcome the inefficiencies of long-term trials with rodents when thousands of agents/exposures need to be tested. To such an end, the use of in vitro cell transformation assays (CTAs) was proposed, but the existing prevalidated CTAs do not cover the complexity associated with carcinogenesis processes and present serious limitations. To overcome such limitations, we propose to use a battery of assays covering most of the hallmarks of the carcinogenesis process. For the first time, we grouped such assays as early, intermediate, or advanced biomarkers which allow for the identification of the cells in the initiation, promotion or aggressive stages of tumorigenesis. Our proposal, as a novelty, points out that using a battery containing assays from all three groups can identify if a certain agent/exposure can pose a carcinogenic risk; furthermore, it can gather mechanistic insights into the mode of the action of a specific carcinogen. This structured battery could be very useful for any type of in vitro study, containing human cell lines aiming to detect the potential carcinogenic risks of environmental agents/exposures. In fact, here, we include examples in which these approaches were successfully applied. Finally, we provide a series of advantages that, we believe, contribute to the suitability of our proposed approach for the evaluation of exposure-induced carcinogenic effects and for the development of an alternative strategy for conducting an exposure risk assessment.
Original languageEnglish
Article number7851
Pages (from-to)1-26
Number of pages26
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 25 Apr 2023


  • cancer hallmarks
  • in vitro cell transformation
  • long-term exposure
  • oncogenic phenotype


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