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MSU Research History: Cisplatin Discovery?

1960s – Chemistry professor Barnett Rosenberg and colleagues Loretta VanCamp and Thomas Krigas observe that certain platinum compounds inhibit cell division, and by 1969 demonstrate that these compounds cure solid tumors. However, Rosenberg did not discover cisplatin: Cisplatin was first described by Michele Peyrone in 1845, and was known as Peyrone’s salt or Peyrone’s chloride.

In fact, Rosenberg uncovered cisplatin’s role in stopping cell growth by accident. He was studying the process of how cell division is affected by a magnetic field, when he noted that the bacterial cells in a culture charged between platinum electrodes were growing to great lengths, but didn’t divide.

At first, he believed that the magnetic field in his experiment caused the unexpected result. He ultimately determined that cisplatin – the well-known chemical compound formed by a reaction with platinum electrodes – might inhibit the growth of tumors.

It wasn’t until 1978 that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of cisplatin, which greatly improved the treatment of testicular cancer and some ovarian and colon cancers.

Read more about Rosenberg’s story in MSU Alumni magazine (Spring 2011) or see “Cisplatin: The Story of MSU’s Cancer Drug.”

Photo: Barnett Rosenberg and Loretta Van Camp with photographs of normal bacteria (left) and bacteria that have been treated with platinum (right). April 24, 1964


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