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Chemistry LibreTexts

Cisplatin: The Invention of an Anticancer Drug

We begin our story with an experiment designed to elucidate the effect of electric fields on the bacterial growth of E. coli. The serendipitous result of this experiment was that it was not the electric fields that inhibited bacterial growth but rather a platinum containing complex that later came to be known as cisplatin. Cisplatin chemotherapy now recognized for dramatic lengthening of survival for some common types of lung cancer. Read through this unit for a description of cisplatin science. Sometimes the principles of chemistry are embedded in another science. Sometimes it is not obvious that chemistry is at the heart of invention. The story of the invention of the anticancer drug cisplatin is a story of chemistry hidden in the science of biology. A group of researchers at Michigan State University subsequently found that cisplatin could also be used to inhibit the growth of cancer cells. For the past twenty years, cisplatin has proven to be highly effective for the treatment of various cancers, particularly testicular cancer. Unfortunately, toxicity and drug resistance have become serious concerns, and research efforts continue in the hope of improving this drug.