The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the Evidence-based Toxicology Collaboration (EBTC) held a joint colloquium on evidence integration in human risk assessment of chemicals (EFSA’s 23rd Scientific Colloquium) on October 25-26, 2017, in Lisbon, Portugal.
In evidence-based scientific assessments, “structured and standardized approaches” are applied “to minimize bias and maximize impartiality and transparency in the process for collecting, evaluating and combining evidence relevant to well-formulated research questions, according to pre-defined protocols.” These approaches, also referred to as ‘systematic review,’ have been initially established for use in health-care related studies (e.g. The Cochrane Collaboration), and have since been promoted for a broader use in feed and food safety assessments, as well as for chemical risk assessment in general.
The challenges faced by the latter undertakings include the “heterogeneity of evidence streams,” stemming from, e.g. diversity of studies including human (epidemiological) investigations, animal tests, in vitro experiments, and computational models, but also vast differences in the design of individual studies and in the endpoints assessed. Therefore, evidence typically needs to be combined “not only within- but also across evidence streams.”
This process, defined as “evidence integration,” is relevant both “for assessing effects caused by exposure to a chemical substance (hazard identification), and for deriving health-based guidance values through dose-response modeling (hazard characterization).” Different methods available for integrating evidence range “from approaches based on expert judgement, through structured qualitative methods, to complex quantitative methods.” The EFSA/EBTC colloquium aimed at discussing “current practice, challenges, recent developments and innovative approaches to integrating evidence within and across evidence streams and to combining multiple studies and endpoints.”
Keynote lectures at the colloquium addressed evidence synthesis, GRADE (Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation) and GRADE-based methods, meta-analysis of bias, causal inference, and dose-response modeling. These topics were then discussed in-depth in smaller breakout-groups. The recordings of the opening and closing sessions, along with presentations, are now available on the event’s website. The publication of the colloquium report is expected in spring 2018.
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Hoffmann, S, et al. (2017). “A primer on systematic reviews in toxicology.” Archives of Toxicology 91:2551-2575.