Platinum-based chemotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that involves drugs containing platinum ion compounds. Doctors commonly use these drugs to treat various types of slow-growing cancers.

While platinum-based chemotherapy can effectively kill many cancer cells, it has potentially severe side effects.

This article explores platinum-based chemotherapies, including how they work, their effectiveness, possible side effects, and more.

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The most common platinum-based chemotherapy drugs include:

  • Cisplatin: This was the first platinum-based chemotherapy drug developed and approved to treat cancer in 1978. It treats many cancers, including testicular, ovarian, bladder, and others.
  • Carboplatin: This is a modified version of cisplatin with a similar mechanism of action but fewer side effects. Doctors use it to treat ovarian, lung, and other cancers.
  • Oxaliplatin: This is primarily used in treating colorectal cancer, often in combination with other drugs.

A healthcare professional typically administers the chemotherapy intravenously, and doctors often use it with other chemotherapy drugs or treatments, such as radiation therapy or targeted therapies.

The choice of chemotherapy regimen depends on the specific type of cancer, the stage of the disease, the overall health of the patient, and other factors.

Experts believe platinum-based chemotherapies work by targeting and interfering with the DNA in rapidly dividing cells, including cancer cells.

The platinum compounds in chemotherapy drugs form chemical bonds with DNA molecules in cells and cause structural changes and damage to the DNA.

This damage disrupts the cell’s dividing process and prevents the cells from creating more cancer cells.

The DNA damage also triggers apoptosis, which is programmed cell death. By inducing apoptosis in cancer cells, these drugs contribute to eliminating cancerous tissue.

In the last decade, researchers have also discovered that platinum-based chemotherapy drugs, especially oxaliplatin, cause immunogenic cell death (ICD).

ICD is a process in which cancer cells are killed in a way that triggers the immune system to recognize and attack them, enhancing the body’s ability to eliminate cancer.

There is ongoing research to discover how cisplatin may affect other mechanisms of action to help aid treatment in the future.

Worldwide, experts have clinically approved platinum-based chemotherapy drugs as a first-choice medication for malignant tumors.

Platinum-based chemotherapies work best on slow-growing cancers, and while they can treat fast-growing cancers, they are not as effective.

Cancers they may treat include:

While many people initially respond positively to cisplatin chemotherapy, a portion of them eventually experience relapse and develop resistance, decreasing its effectiveness. The same is true for carboplatin.

However, the third-generation platinum therapy, oxaliplatin, does not cause resistance.

While platinum-based chemotherapy primarily targets rapidly dividing cancer cells, it can also affect healthy cells with a high division rate.

This can include cells in the bone marrow, gastrointestinal tract, and hair follicles. This is why chemotherapy often leads to side effects like bone marrow suppression, gastrointestinal issues, and hair loss.

Common side effects may include:

Healthcare professionals administer platinum-based chemotherapy medications intravenously (IV) or by injection.

An IV push involves administering drugs rapidly through a catheter using a syringe over a brief period.

IV infusion, on the other hand, involves a mixed drug solution flowing through tubing from a plastic bag attached to the catheter, taking minutes to hours. Continuous infusion, controlled by electronic IV pumps, spans one to several days.

People who require prolonged chemotherapy might benefit from a central venous catheter (CVC). Doctors insert a CVC into a major vein in the chest or arm, and it remains in place for the duration of the treatment. This type of IV access eliminates the need for repeated needle insertions.

Where a person gets their chemotherapy treatment depends on which chemo drug the doctor orders, the dose, hospital policies, and several other factors. Possible locations include infusion centers, the hospital, or a person’s home.

The frequency and duration of the chemo treatment depends on the type of chemo, the kind of cancer, and how a person responds to the treatment.

People may receive treatments daily, weekly, or monthly. Doctors typically give the doses in on-and-off cycles, meaning a person may receive chemo for 2 weeks and then have a week break before starting the cycle again. This gives the person time to rest and regain their strength.

Platinum-based chemotherapies are a group of drugs containing platinum compounds used to treat various cancers.

These compounds target rapidly dividing cancer cells by interfering with their DNA, leading to cell death. Doctors commonly employ them against testicular, ovarian, and bladder cancers.

The effectiveness of platinum-based chemotherapy varies based on cancer type, stage, and patient factors, but it can be a potent tool in shrinking tumors and inducing remission.

Healthcare professionals administer these drugs through an IV. They can come with side effects like nausea, vomiting, and hair loss.

Close monitoring and supportive care are crucial to managing these potential adverse effects and ensuring the best possible outcomes for platinum-based chemotherapy patients.