In recent years, there has been widespread interest in the relationship between carcinogenic exposure and mutation spectra in cancer-related genes. To evaluate potential benefits and/or limitations in the use of mutation spectra in genetic toxicology, a GUM working group has been established to discuss this subject. Based on methodological possibilities and limitations, the impact of mutation spectra in the interpretation of animal experiments and in the identification of etiological agents in human cancer has been considered. With respect to experimental animals, the analyses of mutation spectra within long-term rodent carcinogenicity studies may provide some additional information on the mode of action of the respective carcinogen, however, the interpretation of results should be done carefully and only in context with other toxicological data available. Regarding human exposure, the analysis of mutation spectra in p53 or ras genes supplies information on the genotoxic properties of the respective agent. Nevertheless, on the individual level, the presence or absence of defined mutations in cancer-related genes in human tumors does not permit a definite conclusion about the causative agent. © 2001 Elsevier Science B.V.
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