Before beginning a review of the book under consideration, a confession is in order. I am an admitted bibliophile. I love books--big ones, little ones, and everything in between. My favorite past-time is reading and collecting books, especially those on genetics, mutation research, toxicology, and natural history. My office and home runneth over with such books acquired over the years. When the opportunity came to review the Handbook of Carcinogenicity Potency and Genotoxicity Databases (CPDB), I eagerly volunteered for the job. Aside from getting another book for my collection, I am keenly interested in the two databases that are the focus of the book. Because of my interest and the nature of my work, I have read most of the papers published about these databases and therefore already have more than a casual acquaintance with them. With this said, I will further confess that I will be a somewhat biased reviewer. I will endeavor to sequester this bias and present the book in a way that people can determine their own interest.
I am delighted that these databases on carcinogenesis and genotoxicity have been assembled into book form. Now, consumers, hungry for compilations of data/information on chemicals evaluated in these two specific but related subareas of toxicology, have a valuable resource on which to feed. What the editors (Lois Swirsky Gold and Errol Zeiger) and publisher (CRC Press) have achieved with this book is to compress into a single source a wealth of data/information on chemical agents evaluated for carcinogenicity (1298) and genotoxicity (1525). In essence, the book contains a one-stop smorgasbord of detail on a total of 2300 chemicals evaluated for either or both of these endpoints.
I received the book many weeks ago and, with great interest, began the task of working and studying my way through it. From the beginning, it was evident that this is not a book someone, even a bibliophile, would consider reading cover to cover. It's a reference source, a compendium of information and not something for reading from beginning to end. The subject matter included consists of large listings of chemicals evaluated for animal carcinogenicity, with some categorization based on experimental parameters. All of this information has been selected from the published literature and/or the National Cancer Institute/National Toxicology Program bioassay program. The handbook has the added bonus of having included the National Toxicology Program test results on chemicals evaluated for genotoxicity. Because of the specialization of content, the handbook's potential user community is pretty much predetermined to be those interested in exploring relationships between carcinogenesis and mutagenesis and those seeking test results/data for use in the overall process of making regulatory decisions or making health hazard/risk assessments. To some extent, those studying structure activity relationships will also find the handbook useful. Overall, its predominant use will be to serve as a handy resource to look up specific information (test results) either on a chemical or group of chemicals. The handbook is large and may be, to some, imposing. There are 754 pages, most of which are devoted to tables, explanatory notes, appendices, and bibliographies. This characteristic may be a "turn off" to any would-be casual user. These nontextual components take up about 92% of the total number of available pages. Only the "determined" or "true believers" will avail themselves to the task of studying and rooting out the information contained in this treasure chest of knowledge. For these people, this handbook will be an extremely helpful resource. The editors and publisher are commended on expending the resources (time and money) to make this volume available as it represents a multi-year effort devoted to the documentation of test results for chemicals evaluated for carcinogenicity in animals and genotoxic activity in a series of short-term bioassays. It, no doubt, will be the only such resource that many will have to these subject areas even though we now live in the electronic information age. The carcinogenicity data has been formatted to aid in the analysis of the data, but the genotoxicity data exists only as summaries of test results obtained through the National Toxicology Program. Most importantly, the majority of these genotoxicity results have never appeared in the open literature until publication of this handbook.
The handbook contains test results on a total of 2300 chemicals; 1298 of these have been evaluated and analyzed for carcinogenicity and 1525 for mutagenicity. Five hundred twenty-three (523) chemicals have test results common to both endpoints. A word of caution when using the handbook - presentation of the data makes considerable utilization of codes, etc., making it mandatory for users to take the time to carefully review all the explanations provided for each test area in order to find and make use of the data recorded in the various tables. Once these instructions have been mastered, then the information available on each of the 2300 chemicals can be reviewed and assessed. Entries for the carcinogenicity results on the 1298 chemicals represents the analysis of 5152 animal tests and includes qualitative information on strain, sex, target organ, histopathology and the experimenter's or author's opinion about whether the test chemical was carcinogenic or not. Also included with these entries is information on statistical significance of results, tumor incidence, dose-response curves, duration of the experiment, dose rate and dose time. Each carcinogenicity entry has been flavored with an analysis provided by the editors. For this purpose, a numerical description of carcinogenicity potency (TD50) has been estimated for each set of tumor incidence data. This TD50 can be explained as follows: for a given target site(s), if no tumors are reported in control animals for the site(s), then the TD50 is calculated as that chronic dose-rate (expressed in standard units of mg/kg body weigh/day) which would induce tumors in 50% of the test animals at the end of the standard life span for the animal species in question. The animal data reported in the CPDB came from experiments with mice, rats, nonhuman primates and dogs.
The genotoxicity data consists of six in vitro tests conducted by the National Toxicology Program, i.e., L5178Y mouse lymphoma cell assay, chromosome aberrations and sister chromatid exchange tests in Chinese hamster ovary cells, Drosophila melanogaster sex-linked recessive lethal tests, and the Salmonella mammalian microsome assay. These genotoxicity test results are presented as tabular summaries. The chapter (No. 5) carrying these results also has descriptions of the test protocols followed for each assay and a bibliographic section.
Users can quickly see if a result for a particular chemical is in the handbook by confirming the chemical's Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) Registry number(s) in the CAS index provided. Please remember that the inclusion of a chemical in this handbook does not necessarily mean it is carcinogenic or genotoxic; let the data make the call.
[There is a Web site] for the CPDB portion of the book and most of the genotoxicity test results can be obtained by querying the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences/National Toxicology Program web site.
Now, having said all of the above, "Do I recommend acquiring this book?" My answer is a resounding YES if you fit the user community I have referred to in my narrative. To those individuals within this user group who may have on-line access to these files, I still recommend obtaining a hard copy. Things electronic sometimes have the tendency to malfunction and not work. Books, on the other hand, are most always ready for service. The price of the book, in my opinion, is not really out of sight considering what this cost brings to the purchaser. The buyer will have an organized compendium of test results on 2300 chemicals evaluated for carcinogenicity and/or genotoxicity; the cost per chemical and associated result(s) amounts to just a little over 5.4 cents. I believe this handbook is a good investment for the user community identified.
John S. Wassom
Human Genome and Toxicology
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
1060 Commerce Park MS-6480
Oak Ridge, TN 37830, USA
Oak Ridge National Laboratory, managed by Lockheed Martin Energy Research Corp. for the U.S. Department of Energy under contract number DE-AC05-960R22464.
Return to the Carcinogenic Potency Database Project (CPDB) Home Page:
Last updated: May 15, 1998