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June 22, 1979

Humble Therapeutic Beginnings for a Noble Metal

JAMA. 1979;241(25):2738. doi:10.1001/jama.1979.03290510046029

"It remains the last of the heavy metals in common clinical use," states a British Medical Journal "leader" (1:289-290, 1979) in a review of gold in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. Were it not for the qualifications of "common" and "clinical," the statement would be incorrect. Another heavy metal, platinum, is entering the therapeutic arena for use in the treatment of various malignant lesions.

As in many other medical discoveries, serendipity played a part in the discovery of the therapeutic potential of platinum. In 1965 Rosenberg and associates1 noted that discharge from a platinum electrode through a nutrient broth inhibited the replication of Escherichia coli. Since then many platinum compounds have been tested for antitumor action. Of these, cis-diamminedichloroplatinum proved to be the most effective. In addition to antineoplastic action, the biologic effects of cis-diamminedichloroplatinum include antimicrobial, mutagenic, and immunosuppressive properties. Its mechanism of action, although incompletely