Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 23, Issue 15, pp 14706–14717 | Cite as

Biodegradability of the anticancer drug etoposide and identification of the transformation products

  • Tina Kosjek
  • Noelia Negreira
  • Ester Heath
  • Miren López de Alda
  • Damià Barceló
Fate and effects of the residues of anticancer drugs in the environment


Etoposide susceptibility to microbiological breakdown was studied in a batch biotransformation system, in the presence or absence of artificial wastewater containing nutrients, salts and activated sludge at two concentration levels. The primary focus of the present study was to study etoposide transformation products by ultra-high performance liquid chromatography coupled to high-resolution hybrid quadrupole-Orbitrap tandem mass spectrometry (MS/MS). Data-dependent experiments combining full-scan MS data with product ion spectra were acquired to identify the molecular ions of etoposide transformation products, to propose the molecular formulae and to elucidate their chemical structures. Due to the complexity of the matrix, visual inspection of the chromatograms showed no clear differences between the controls and the treated samples. Therefore, the software package MZmine was used to facilitate the identification of the transformation products and speed up the data analysis. In total, we propose five transformation products; among them, four are described as etoposide transformation products for the first time. Even though the chemical structures of these new compounds cannot be confirmed due to the lack of standards, their molecular formulae can be used to target them in monitoring studies.


Etoposide Biodegradation Transformation product Mass spectrometry Orbitrap Transformation Wastewater 



The financial support of the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007–2013), grant agreement no. 265264: CytoThreat (Fate and effects of cytostatic pharmaceuticals in the environment and the identification of biomarkers for improved risk assessment on environmental exposure) and 603437: SOLUTIONS (Solutions for present and future emerging pollutants in land and water resources management), the Slovenian Research Agency programme P1-0143 (Cycling of substances in the environment, mass balances, modelling of environmental processes and risk assessment), J1-6744 (Development of Molecularly Imprinted Polymers and their application in environmental and bio-analysis) and L1-5457 Pharmaceutical and personal care product residues in the environment: occurrence, sources, treatment and effects), and the Generalitat de Catalunya (Consolidated Research Groups “2014 SGR 418—Water and Soil Quality Unit” and 2014 SGR 291—ICRA) are acknowledged. Merck is also acknowledged for the gift of LC columns.

Supplementary material

11356_2016_6889_MOESM1_ESM.docx (754 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 753 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tina Kosjek
    • 1
    • 2
  • Noelia Negreira
    • 3
  • Ester Heath
    • 1
    • 2
  • Miren López de Alda
    • 3
  • Damià Barceló
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Environmental SciencesJožef Stefan InstituteLjubljanaSlovenia
  2. 2.Jožef Stefan International Postgraduate SchoolLjubljanaSlovenia
  3. 3.Water and Soil Quality Research Group, Department of Environmental ChemistryInstitute of Environmental Assessment and Water Research (IDAEA-CSIC)BarcelonaSpain
  4. 4.Catalan Institute for Water Research (ICRA), H2O BuildingScientific and Technological Park of the University of GironaGironaSpain

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