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Definition of Cytotoxic

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Cytotoxic: Toxic to cells, cell-toxic, cell-killing. Any agent or process that kills cells. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy are forms of cytotoxic therapy. They kill cells.

The prefix cyto- denotes a cell. It comes from the Greek kytos meaning hollow, as a cell or container. Toxic is from the Greek toxikon = arrow poison.

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Reviewed on 12/11/2018

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