Ever wonder what agency determines what chemicals are hazardous
to your health? In many cases, it's the National Toxicology Program.
The NTP, an interagency program within HHS headquartered at the
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, celebrated
more than 25 years of scientific progress and its role in protecting
the health of the public in May.
|NIH director Dr. Elias Zerhouni (l) talks
with Dr. Sam Wilson, acting deputy director of NIEHS.
National leaders in health and science, including NIH director
Dr. Elias Zerhouni, gathered in the NAS building in Washington
May 9-10 to recognize the numerous contributions of the NTP and
to discuss future directions.
"The NTP serves a critical role for our nation," said Zerhouni. "It
provides a venue where a consolidated approach to testing can occur.
It exemplifies the best way to meet interdisciplinary needs."
He proudly noted some impressive statistics regarding the media
and public's interest in the work of the NTP, particularly the
most recent Report on Carcinogens (ROC), which he said
had more than 1 million web site hits within 2 days of its release
and was covered in more than 200 press stories. The ROC, which
biennially lists all substances known to cause cancer, is just
one of many reports NTP regularly releases.
Zerhouni, as well as other speakers, including a former associate
director of NTP, Dr. George Lucier, talked about the promise of what
they termed "predictive toxicology" — being able to predict
whether a chemical might be a toxicant based upon studying its metabolism
or knowing whether it affects expression of specific genes or alters
cellular processes such as cell growth or apoptosis (cell death). "The
NTP has the ability to tell us more about the role of genes and environment,
and to predict how genes will respond to various chemicals," said
Zerhouni. "The future of the NTP is very bright."
||NTP deputy director Dr. Chris Portier gives
presentation at the symposium.
Other speakers, including Dr. Bernard Goldstein, a dean at the
University of Pittsburgh, praised the work of the NTP, especially
its role in prevention. "There is no way we can even put a number
on how many lives the NTP has saved since its inception in 1978." He
cited the Ames test, which is widely used to detect possible chemical
mutagens, as a life-saving device that also exemplifies how NTP
uses alternatives to animal testing to conduct its studies.
"Reducing, refining and replacing animal testing with alternative
methods," is a high priority for the NTP, said Dr. Chris Portier,
NTP associate director, as he discussed the program's "Roadmap
for the Future." The NTP Roadmap is the result of a year-long process
involving input from leading researchers from many fields who worked
together to develop a strategy that takes advantage of new technologies.
In addition to developing improved testing methods for the more
than 80,000 chemicals now available in commerce, NTP is a leader
in examining safety issues related to herbal medicines and supplements,
nanotechnology and cell phone radiofrequency transmissions. "These
are emerging areas that the NTP is addressing."
"A Roadmap for the Future" can be found at http://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/.