Cytostatic pharmaceuticals in the environment

Pharmaceuticals have brought enormous benefits to humanity in terms of healthier and longer lives. It is now not possible to imagine life without pharmaceuticals and huge quantities of pharmacologically active substances are consumed annually. Thus it is not surprising that pharmaceutically active substances are emerging as a new group of environmental contaminants the potential adverse environmental and human health effects of which are yet to be fully investigated.

Cytostatics, due to their genotoxicity, belong to a group of the most dangerous compounds, however very little is known about their occurrence and distribution in the environment, and their effects on environmental organisms and human health. The main reason is that they are, compared to other pharmaceuticals, such as for example nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs or drugs for lowering blood cholesterol, used in much smaller quantities. Consequently, research efforts have been directed neither into development of ultra-sensitive analytical methods to allow their detection in the environment, nor to studies of the effects of chronic exposure to low concentrations on environmental organisms and human health. The presence of cytostatic residues in the environment may lead to systemic environmental effects that in the worst case lead to extinction of susceptible organisms, while in exposed humans increased cancer incidence and reproductive defects may occur. Thus, data are needed to reliably assess the potential risks and introduce appropriate risk management.

The EC-FP7 funded project CytoThreat is emphasized on the evaluation of the environment and human health risks posed by cytostatic pharmaceuticals released into environment. We will use diverse chemical and biological techniques and advanced technologies to analyze the presence and distribution of selected cytostatics and their degradation products in the ecosystem and their adverse effects as single compounds and in mixtures to aquatic organisms and to human cell lines. Through the aim of developing new chemical analytical methods and studying formation of degradation products with concurrent application of whole range of toxicological tests including identification of early biomarkers for long term effects based on state of the art toxicogenomic approaches and bioinformatics the project has the potential to provide early diagnostic tools for predicting potential long term effects on ecosystems and human health. By achieving this we expect that CytoThreat results will provide new scientific knowledge and key data required in risk assessment procedures.

The four year project CytoThreat with total value of about 3.3 MIO EUR started in January 2011. It is coordinated by prof. dr. Metka Filipič from National Institute of Biology, Slovenia and includes research teams from Jožef Stefan Institute, Slovenia), Medical University of Vienna, Austria, Szent István University, Hungary, The Second University of Naples, Italy, Spanish Council for Scientific Research, Institute of Environmental Assessment and Water Research, Spain, Institute for Medical Research and Occupational Health, Croatia, Institute for Multidisciplinary Research, University of Belgrade, Serbia, and the SME RR&CO, Slovenia.

Research within the project CytoThreat will be conducted in close collaboration with the project Pharmas, that was selected in the same tender as CytoThreat and is coordinated by prof. dr. John Sumpter of Brunel University in Great Britain. This cooperation will allow us to obtain more and better information as we will be able to include in to the studies more European areas, and on the basis of exchange of the results of complementary methodologies produce more accurate risk assessments. The cluster of the two projects we named PharmaCluster.

As residues of pharmaceuticals are currently very “hot” scientific topic it is expected that the results will have significant impact on different stakeholders; from pharmaceutical industry, national and EU regulatory bodies, to public that are all very interested in this issue.

The CytoThreat project clearly contributes to EU policies and strategies related to human health and environment protection such as the European Action Plan on Environment and Health that is designed to provide the European Union with reliable information on the impact of environmental damage on human health, and the new Environment and Health Strategy that announced that an integrated approach is needed to address environmental health issues. The results will be important also for the implementation of Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC) that regulates protection of water resources and the Directive on human medicine (2004/27/EC) that among others regulates also residues of pharmaceuticals in the environment. Cytothreat will contribute also to the European chemical safety legislation (REACH) in particular by development of alternative toxicological methods that enable replacement of experiments in animals with in vitro molecular methods.

The collaboration of researches from both projects with their complementing expertises and available infrastructure and equipment in the fields of analytical chemistry, toxicology, ecotoxicology, ‘omic’ technologies and bioinformatics form different parts of Europe will, in addition to achieve the goals of the project, enable exchange of experience, knowledge and specific technologies between the partners that will contribute also to strengthening of European Research Area.

We use cookies to improve our website and your experience when using it. Cookies used for the essential operation of the site have already been set. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

I accept cookies from this site.

EU Cookie Directive Module Information