Assessment of primary, oxidative and excision repaired DNA damage in hospital personnel handling antineoplastic drugs

by | Nov 26, 2010 | Studies | 0 comments

Milena Villarini, Luca Dominici, Renza Piccinini, Cristina Fatigoni, Maura Ambrogi, Gianluca Curti, Piero Morucci, Giacomo Muzi, Silvano Monarca, Massimo Moretti




The International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified several antineoplastic drugs in Group 1 (human carcinogens), among which chlorambucil, cyclophosphamide (CP) and tamoxifen, Group 2A (probable human carcinogens), among which cisplatin, etoposide, N-ethyland N-methyl-N-nitrosourea, and Group 2B (possible human carcinogens), among which bleomycins, merphalan and mitomycin C.

The widespread use of these mutagenic/carcinogenic drugs in the treatment of cancer has led to anxiety about possible genotoxic hazards to medical personnel handling these drugs. The aim of the present study was to evaluate work environment contamination by antineoplastic drugs in a hospital in Central Italy and to assess the genotoxic risks associated with antineoplastic drug handling. The study group comprised 52 exposed subjects and 52 controls.

Environmental contamination was assessed by taking wipe samples from different surfaces in preparation and administration rooms and nonwoven swabs were used as pads for the surrogate evaluation of dermal exposure, 5-fluorouracil and cytarabine were chosen as markers of exposure to antineoplastic drugs in the working environment. The actual exposure to antineoplastic drugs was evaluated by determining the urinary excretion of CP. The extent of primary, oxidative and excision repaired DNA damage was measured in peripheral blood leukocytes with the alkaline comet assay.

To evaluate the role, if any, of genetic variants in the extent of genotoxic effects related to antineoplastic drug occupational exposure, the study subjects were genotyped for GSTM1, GSTT1, GSTP1 and TP53 polymorphisms. Primary DNA damage significantly increased in leukocytes of exposed nurses compared to controls. The use of personal protective equipment (i.e. gloves and/mask) was associated with a decrease in the extent of primary DNA damage.

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