With cancer as the second leading cause of death globally, it comes as a surprise that we know very little up until now about the environmental impacts of cancer drugs. Chemo drugs, also called antineoplastic agents, are entering the aquatic environment at rates faster than ever, and it’s about time that we understand their impacts, say researchers who recently published a study in the journal Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry.
Antineoplastic agents end up in aquatic environments through human waste and wastewater. This is currently not enough information regarding the toxicity of these compounds in order to adequately inform regulatory policies.
Corresponding author Christopher J. Martyniuk, of the University of Florida at the College of Veterinary Medicine, thinks that this lack of investigation is a mistake:
"The global population is aging, and cancer-fighting pharmaceuticals are being detected in water systems. We need to be proactive as a scientific community and identify potential gaps in our knowledge regarding the consequences of anti-neoplastic exposure in aquatic organisms," said Martyniuk.
In conducting their literature reviews, the researchers write that they determined that the most-frequently detected antineoplastics included “cyclophosphamide, ifosfamide, tamoxifen, methotrexate, and 5‐fluorouracil,” and that “all were detectable in multiple water sources, including effluent and surface waters.”
The research team comments on the urgency of their investigation, pointing out that hundreds of antineoplastic agents are in late-stage clinical development, putting our aquatic environments at risk in the very near future. As it is now, many antineoplastics are not sufficiently treated during wastewater treatment and stay within aquatic environments.