Immunotoxicity monitoring of hospital staff occupationally exposed to cytostatic drugs

Anna Biró, Zoltán Fodor, Jeno Major, Anna Tompa

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12 Citations (Scopus)


The aim of our study was to investigate the immunotoxicity of occupational cytostatic drug exposure, and to assess the possible effect of confounding factors, such as age and smoking. In this human study, the immunotoxic effect of antineoplastic drugs was investigated among 306 nurses working in oncology chemotherapy units. Results were compared to 98 non-exposed women. The immune status of the subjects was characterized by immune phenotyping of peripheral blood lymphocytes by flow cytometry, using monoclonal antibodies against surface antigens (CD3, CD4, CD8, CD19, CD25, CD45, CD56 and CD71). The killing ability of neutrophil leukocytes was assessed by the measurement of reactive oxygen intermediate production. Occupational exposure to antineoplastic drugs caused shifts in the major lymphocyte subpopulations, resulting in a statistically significant increase in the ratio of B cells. Cytostatic drug exposure also manifested itself in a decreased frequency of CD25 positive, activated T lymphocytes, and increased oxidative burst of neutrophil granulocytes, both of which may have a functional impact on the immune system of exposed subjects. In the younger subjects exposure also caused a shift in T cell subpopulations: a reduction in the cytotoxic T cell population lead to an elevated Th/Tc ratio. In the exposed group, smoking increased activation of T lymphocyte subpopulations. In conclusion, we have demonstrated that low dose occupational cytostatic drug exposure is immunotoxic, and age and smoking modify the effect of exposure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)301-308
Number of pages8
JournalPathology and Oncology Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1 2011



  • CD antigens
  • Cytostatic drug
  • Immunotoxicity
  • Lymphocyte phenotype
  • Occupational exposure
  • Oxidative burst

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research

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