Role of biomarkers in monitoring exposures to chemicals: present position, future prospects.

Biomarkers : biochemical indicators of exposure, response, and susceptibility to chemicals

PubMedID: 15764289

Watson WP, Mutti A. Role of biomarkers in monitoring exposures to chemicals: present position, future prospects. Biomarkers. 2005;9(3):211-42.
Biomarkers are becoming increasingly important in toxicology and human health. Many research groups are carrying out studies to develop biomarkers of exposure to chemicals and apply these for human monitoring. There is considerable interest in the use and application of biomarkers to identify the nature and amounts of chemical exposures in occupational and environmental situations. Major research goals are to develop and validate biomarkers that reflect specific exposures and permit the prediction of the risk of disease in individuals and groups. One important objective is to prevent human cancer. This review presents a commentary and consensus views about the major developments on biomarkers for monitoring human exposure to chemicals. A particular emphasis is on monitoring exposures to carcinogens. Significant developments in the areas of new and existing biomarkers, analytical methodologies, validation studies and field trials together with auditing and quality assessment of data are discussed. New developments in the relatively young field of toxicogenomics possibly leading to the identification of individual susceptibility to both cancer and non-cancer endpoints are also considered. The construction and development of reliable databases that integrate information from genomic and proteomic research programmes should offer a promising future for the application of these technologies in the prediction of risks and prevention of diseases related to chemical exposures. Currently adducts of chemicals with macromolecules are important and useful biomarkers especially for certain individual chemicals where there are incidences of occupational exposure. For monitoring exposure to genotoxic compounds protein adducts, such as those formed with haemoglobin, are considered effective biomarkers for determining individual exposure doses of reactive chemicals. For other organic chemicals, the excreted urinary metabolites can also give a useful and complementary indication of exposure for acute exposures. These methods have revealed 'backgrounds' in people not knowingly exposed to chemicals and the sources and significance of these need to be determined, particularly in the context of their contribution to background health risks.