TUCSON   520.748.4400

Cisplatin and Carboplatin Anticancer Drugs

Cisplatin and carboplatin are two of the most widely prescribed anticancer agents. Dr. Barnett Rosenberg and colleagues at Michigan State University discovered these highly effective drugs when they found that a simple platinum-based compound prevented bacteria from replicating normally. Rosenberg wondered whether the compound would have a similar effect on cancer cells. His tests and subsequent experiments showed that the compound did arrest the growth of model tumors. Until this demonstration, inorganic compounds never had been employed successfully as anticancer agents.

Research Corporation, RCT’s predecessor, licensed cisplatin exclusively to the Bristol-Myers Squibb Company in 1977. In 1978, after clinical trials conducted by the NCI and the company exceeded the most optimistic predictions, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved cisplatin for treating patients with metastatic testicular or ovarian cancer in combination with other drugs. Cisplatin, which entered the U.S. market as Platinol®, also is an approved therapy for bladder cancer.

Bristol-Myers Squibb also licensed carboplatin, a second generation platinum drug with fewer side effects, in 1979. Carboplatin entered the U.S. market as Paraplatin® in 1989 for initial treatment of advanced ovarian cancer in established combination with other approved chemotherapeutic agents.

Cisplatin has been shown to have a cure rate of greater than 85 percent for testicular cancers and also is used to treat lung cancers, head and neck cancers and bone cancers.

The advent of the platinum anticancer drugs brought new hope to patients suffering from a number of cancers where previously there was little in the way of cure or even palliation of their disease. RCT is pleased that it was in a position to protect the investment made by Dr. Rosenberg, his colleagues and supporting organizations, as well as the commercial entities that were instrumental in conducting the research and clinical trials that led to these compounds being brought to market.

Read a 2001 article in Genome Biology about Rosenberg’s discovery.



Dr. Barnett Rosenberg*, Loretta L. Van Camp, Dr. Thomas Krigas at Michigan State University in East Lansing; and Dr. Michael J. Cleare, Johnson Matthey Research Center, England, and Dr. James D. Hoeschele, at Michigan State University (latter two inventors for carboplatin only).

*After 36 years at Michigan State University, Dr. Rosenberg retired in 1997. Rosenberg used his share of the royalty income to found and operate a private laboratory, the Barros Research Institute. He worked at Barros until 2008, when his health began to fail.  Rosenberg died Aug, 8, 2009. He was 82.