The NTP Archives is contributing rodent tumor and normal samples to a new $24.4 million study to investigate the links between human cancers and specific environmental factors. The project is one of four winners of the Cancer Research United Kingdom Grand Challenge, announced February 10, 2017. This research examines human and animal cancers for unique patterns of genetic mutations that might result from chemical exposures. The characteristic patterns are called mutational fingerprints or mutational signatures. The samples are from carefully documented studies of rats and mice exposed to more than 100 chemical carcinogens. The study involved exposures of male and female rats and mice for 13-week and 2-year durations. The researchers will compare mutational fingerprints from the rodent tumors with those from human cancer tissues.
The study builds on initial evidence that certain environmental factors, such as ultraviolet radiation and tobacco, leave a distinct mutational fingerprint when they damage the DNA in human cells. At least 50 mutational fingerprints have been identified, but only about half have been linked to specific environmental factors.
The NTP Archives also is contributing to a project, "Identifying Preventable Causes of Cancer," led by Professor Sir Mike Stratton, M.D., Ph.D., and director of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. Collaborators include scientists from the United States, United Kingdom, and France. Stratton presented the concept for the project in a January 12, 2017 lecture at NIEHS. Stratton’s team plans to study mutational fingerprints from 5,000 pancreatic, kidney, esophageal, and colorectal cancer samples from around the world, comparing them with mutational fingerprints from samples in the NTP Archives and other data. This is the most comprehensive attempt ever made to compare animal and human cancer mutation signatures in relation to chemical exposures.
Arun Pandiri, Ph.D., head of the NTP Molecular Pathology Group at NIEHS, is coordinating the pathology evaluation and sample selection from the NTP Archives.
Ron Herbert, D.V.M., Ph.D., oversees the archives. The archives are an unmatched collection of publicly available research specimens, detailed documentation from chemical exposures, and pathology assessments, all of which make the NTP Archives especially useful for toxicological research.