(Sep. 12, 2002) The threshold dose-response model is widely viewed as the most dominant model in toxicology. The present study was designed to test the validity of the threshold model by assessing the responses of doses below the toxicological NOAEL (no observed adverse effect level) in relationship to the control response.
Nearly 1800 doses below the NOAEL, from 664 dose-response relationships derived from a previously published database that satisfied a priori entry criteria, were evaluated. While the threshold model predicts a 1:1 ratio of responses “greater than” to “less than” the control response (i.e., a random distribution), a 2.5:1 ratio (i.e., 1171:464) was observed, reflecting 31% more responses above the control value than expected (p < 0.0001). The mean response (calculated as % control response) of doses below the NOAEL was 115.0% ± 1.5 standard error of the mean (SEM). These findings challenge the long-standing belief in the primacy of the threshold model in toxicology (and other areas of biology involving dose-response relationships) and provide strong support for the hormetic-like biphasic dose-response model characterized by a low-dose stimulation and a high-dose inhibition. These findings may affect numerous aspects of toxicological and biological/biomedical research related to dose-response relationships, including study design, risk assessment, as well as chemotherapeutic strategies.
Edward J. Calabrese and Linda A. Baldwin, Toxicological Sciences, September 12, 2002