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

Environ Sci Pollut Res Int. 2016 Aug;23(15):14706-17. doi: 10.1007/s11356-016-6889-5. Epub 2016 May 24.


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.

Keywords: Biodegradation; Etoposide; Mass spectrometry; Orbitrap; Transformation; Transformation product; Wastewater.

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / metabolism*
  • Biodegradation, Environmental
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Etoposide / metabolism*
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry
  • Waste Water / analysis*
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / metabolism*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Waste Water
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Etoposide