Cisplatin (Platinol) is a platinum-based chemotherapy. These medicines contain the metal platinum, and are used to treat many types of cancer. Cisplatin is sometimes called the “penicillin of cancer” because it has been one of the most widely used chemotherapy medicines and was one of the first effective cancer treatments.


How cisplatin works

Cisplatin kills cancer cells by damaging their DNA and stopping them from dividing.


Who gets cisplatin

Cisplatin is most often used to treat triple-negative breast cancer. In clinical trials, researchers are studying the effectiveness of cisplatin, and its cousin medicine carboplatin, for specific types of breast cancer, including breast cancer in women with a BRCA gene mutation.

Cisplatin may also be used to treat a return, or recurrence, of early-stage disease, or metastatic breast cancer.


How cisplatin is given

Cisplatin can be given alone, or with other chemotherapy medicines. Cisplatin plus gemcitabine (Gemzar) is a standard treatment for metastatic breast cancer.

Cisplatin is given by vein. It is usually given once every 3 weeks, but the exact schedule depends on the combination of medicines used and your specific diagnosis. Many breast cancer chemotherapy regimens consist of 4 to 6 cycles of treatment given over 3 to 6 months.

Your doctor will ask you to drink plenty of water on the days you receive treatment to protect your kidneys.


Side effects and things to remember

Common side effects may include:

Less common side effects include:

  • Kidney problems

If you have problems urinating, be sure to report them to your doctor. Seek immediate medical care if you have chills or a fever of 100.5 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, which may be signs of infection.

Before starting cisplatin, tell your doctor about any medicines you are taking, including vitamins, herbal supplements and over-the-counter medicines. Also tell your providers if you are allergic to any platinum-containing compounds (such as the cousin chemotherapy medicine, carboplatin), have a history of kidney disease, are pregnant or may become pregnant. You should not breastfeed while you are on this medicine, because it can get into breast milk.

Cisplatin slightly increases the risk of developing leukemia, or blood cancer. Talk to your doctor about this and other risks of taking this medicine.

Your doctor, pharmacist or nurse can help you manage your side effects. You can also go to our section on Side Effects for more information.


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Reviewed and updated: August 31, 2015

Reviewed by: Adrienne Gropper Waks, MD


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