The field of healthcare is one that gets a lot of use from precious metals. Silver’s anti-microbial properties have earned it several roles in medicine. Gold can be converted into an anti-inflammatory drug. And, all precious metals are used to make various alloys in dentistry. Similar to gold, platinum can also be converted into a useful, even lifesaving, drugs.
The medicines we’re talking about are known as platinum-based antineoplastic drugs. When converted into certain chemical forms, platinum can cause living cells to stop dividing. The cells continue to grow (usually much larger than they would normally), but they never divide or reproduce. This novel property makes platinum useful for treating cancers and tumors.
Platinum’s ability to inhibit cell division was discovered in the 1960s and used to create a chemotherapy drug called cisplatin – which was found to be extremely effective at treating testicular cancer. Platinum has since been used to create several other chemotherapy agents such as oxaplatin, straplatin, picoplatin, and more.
Unfortunately, platinum-based drugs do have drawbacks. Some patients develop a resistance to the drugs, and neurotoxicity is a dangerous potential side-effect. Still, in cases where it is effective, platinum-based drugs have saved many lives.