Occurrence of anticancer drugs in the aquatic environment : a systematic review

Nassour, Carla, Barton, Stephen J., Nabhani-Gebara, Shereen, Saab, Yolande and Barker, James (2020) Occurrence of anticancer drugs in the aquatic environment : a systematic review. Environmental Science and Pollution Research, 27, pp. 1339-1347. ISSN (print) 0944-1344


Water contamination with pharmaceutical products is a well-studied problem. Numerous studies have demonstrated the presence of anticancer drugs in different water resources that failed to be eliminated by conventional wastewater treatment plants. The purpose of this report was to conduct a systematic review of anticancer drugs in the aquatic environment. The methodology adopted was carried out in compliance with the PRISMA guidelines. From the 75 studies that met the specific requirements for inclusion, data extracted showed that the most common anticancer drugs studied are cyclophosphamide, tamoxifen, ifosfamide and methotrexate with concentrations measured ranging between 0.01 and 86,200 ng/L. There was significant variation in the methodologies employed due to lack of available guidelines to address sampling techniques, seasonal variability and analytical strategy. The most routinely used technique for quantitative determination was found to be solid-phase extraction followed by LC-MS analysis. The lowest reported recovery percentage was 11%, and the highest limit of detection was 1700 ng/L. This indicated the inadequacy of some methods to analyse anticancer drugs and the failure to obtain reliable results. The significant heterogeneity within methodologies made it difficult to compare results and draw conclusions, nevertheless, this study aids in the extrapolation of proposed recommendations to guide future studies and reviews.

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