In the two years since the last workshop report, the environment surrounding the prediction of skin sensitisation hazards has experienced major change. Validated non-animal tests are now OECD Test Guidelines. Accordingly, the recent cross sector workshop focused on how to use in vitro data for regulatory decision-making. After a review of general approaches and six case studies, there was broad consensus that a simple, transparent stepwise process involving non-animal methods was an opportunity waiting to be seized. There was also strong feeling the approach should not be so rigidly defined that assay variations/additional tests are locked out. Neither should it preclude more complex integrated approaches being used for other purposes, e.g. potency estimation. All agreed the ultimate goal is a high level of protection of human health. Thus, experience in the population will be the final arbiter of whether toxicological predictions are fit for purpose. Central to this is the reflection that none of the existing animal assays is perfect; the non-animal methods should not be expected to be so either, but by integrated use of methods and all other relevant information, including clinical feedback, we have the opportunity to continue to improve toxicology whilst avoiding animal use.
Epidemiologic studies have adapted to the genomics era by forming large international consortia to overcome issues of large data volume and small sample size. Whereas both cohort and well-conducted case-control studies can inform disease risk from genetic susceptibility, cohort studies offer the additional advantages of assessing lifestyle and environmental exposure-disease time sequences often over a life course. Consortium involvement poses several logistical and ethical issues to investigators, some of which are unique to cohort studies, including the challenge to harmonize prospectively collected lifestyle and environmental exposures validly across individual studies. An open forum to discuss the opportunities and challenges of large-scale cohorts and their consortia was held in June 2009 in Banff, Canada, and is summarized in this report.