Cisplatin has been in use since the late 1970s for the treatment of cancer. This drug is widely used to treat testicular cancer, bladder cancer, lung cancer and various types of head and neck cancers. It is often used together with other drugs because it has been found to have a synergistic effect when combined with other drugs.

Cisplatin in combination with other drugs is approved to treat pleural mesothelioma that cannot be treated with surgery. Cisplatin is often combined with Alimta, a drug approved by the FDA in 2004, specifically for the treatment of mesothelioma. The combination of these two drugs is one of the most effective chemotherapy treatments for patients who are not able to have surgery.

Cisplatin is also known by its trade names Platinol and Platinol-AQ. Cisplatin is no longer subject to any patent. This means that any reputable drug manufacturer may produce it.

Cisplatin Triggers Cancer Cells’ Death

Chemotherapy drugs work in complex ways to fight mesothelioma. Cisplatin contains the metal platinum, which damages cancer cells. Cisplatin binds and cross links with a cell’s DNA, ultimately triggering the cell death of the cancerous cells. This process is called apoptosis. Cisplatin has proven to be an effective drug to fight cancer by obstructing cell division by mitosis because of its ability to cross link with DNA in several different ways.

Cisplatin is Administered Intravenously

Chemotherapy drugs can be administered orally or intravenously, which consists of administering liquid substances directly into a vein. Intravenous therapy, commonly referred to as IV therapy, is the fastest way to administer medications to the body.

Cisplatin is given intravenously. This can be done through a thin, short tube that is inserted into the arm each time a treatment is administered. Another method involves the insertion of a long, plastic tube into the chest wall where it remains throughout the course of treatment; this is sometimes referred to as a port or a Hickman catheter.

Clinical Trials Involving Cisplatin

Doctors and researchers are constantly searching for more effective ways to treat cancers, including mesothelioma. Many clinical trials are underway in which various chemotherapy drugs are combined to determine whether that combination is more effective with less toxicity than present treatment protocols. Many patients treated with Cisplatin become resistant to it so that it is no longer effective. Clinical trials are conducted to find new combinations of chemotherapy drugs to fight mesothelioma.

There are Phase I clinical trials combining Cisplatin and other drugs to determine whether such combinations may be effective in fighting mesothelioma. Once researchers find that a drug combination appears promising, Phase II Clinical Trials are conducted. There are many Phase I and II Clinical Trials underway involving Cisplatin and other chemotherapy drugs, including Gleevec and Gemcitabine.

One of the most interesting clinical trials is underway at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Cisplatin is being combined with Gemcitabine. This drug combination is being administered directly into patients’ chest cavities after surgery is performed to remove as much of the malignant tumor as possible. This clinical trial is currently recruiting patients.

Side Effects of Cisplatin

There are side effects with Cisplatin as there are with most chemotherapy drugs. Each patient reacts differently to chemotherapy drugs, and it is not possible to know in advance how a particular patient may respond. The side effects are usually temporary and go away after the treatment is stopped.

  • Fatigue
  • Kidney damage
  • Feeling sick and nauseated
  • A drop in the number of blood cells
  • A temporary effect on ability to hear high pitched sounds
  • Hair loss

As with all drugs, there may be harmful effects to a fetus, and pregnant women must consult carefully with their doctors before taking any chemotherapy drugs.

There are less common side effects including tinnitus, a ringing in the ears, loss of fertility, loss of appetite, and tingling or numbness in toes and fingers.

You should inform your doctor as to all side effects you may experience. Some side effects are uncomfortable and bothersome, but others may require additional treatment.