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Tutorial MenueThe World of the Platinum MetalsLearning Unit 4 of 5

Platinum in Cancer Therapy


The origins of platinum cancer therapy go back to the year 1965.1) Barnett Rosenberg and his coworkers from the Department of Biophysics at the Michigan State University were conducting an experiment on the growth of bacteria under the influence of an electric field. They observed that after some time the bacteria showed a filament-like growth to 300-400 times their original length while, to the surprise of the researchers, the cell division was inhibited. The cause of this effect could be identified as platinum compounds that had been formed by electrolysis between the platinum electrodes and the culture medium, ammonium chloride.2) This discovery paved the way for a completely new class of pharmaceuticals for the treatment of cancer. As early as 1978 cisplatin was approved in the USA as the first anticancer drug containing platinum. This compound is used in particular with great success in the treatment of testicular cancer and helped, for example, the professional cyclist Lance Armstrong. In Armstrong's case, testicular cancer with metastases in the lungs and brain was diagnosed in October 1996. After two surgical operations, cisplatin was able to finally prevent the cancer spreading to other parts of the body.

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Carboplatin is the successor to cisplatin with improved tolerance and has established itself in many therapy procedures. Finally, in 1996 oxaliplatin was approved for the French market. It is currently the only platinum compound used for the treatment of cancer of the colon. Apart from Europe, oxaliplatin has been approved for cancer therapy in the USA since 2002 and in Japan since 2005.

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