Review of the comparative pharmacology and clinical activity of cisplatin and carboplatin

Ronald S. Go, Alex A. Adjei

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

544 Scopus citations


Purpose: To review the pharmacodynamics, pharmacokinetics, toxicities, and relative clinical activities of cisplatin and carboplatin. Through a search of the MEDLINE database, we identified phase III clinical trials and pharmacologic studies comparing cisplatin and carboplatin published in the English language medical literature from January 1966 to December 1997. Results: Prospective randomized trials comparing cisplatin to carboplatin were identified for ovarian (n = 12), germ cell (n = 4), non-small-cell lung (n = 1), small-cell lung (n = 3), and head and neck (n = 4) cancers. Carboplatin and cisplatin were equally effective in suboptimally debulked ovarian cancer and extensive-stage small-cell lung cancer. One study each showed a trend toward better survival in favor of cisplatin for patients with optimally debulked ovarian and limited-stage small-cell lung cancers. These results were, however, based on subset analyses. In germ cell tumors, carboplatin was inferior because of lower relapse-free survival rates. Cisplatin produced superior response rates and survival in head and neck cancers. There are no published randomized phase III studies of bladder, cervical, endometrial, and esophageal cancers. Conclusion: Carboplatin does not possess equivalent activity to cisplatin in all platinum-sensitive tumors. Carboplatin can replace cisplatin in chemotherapy regimens for suboptimally debulked ovarian cancer. Two ongoing studies will address the same question in optimally debulked disease. Carboplatin can also be substituted for cisplatin in the treatment of non-small-cell and extensive- stage small-cell lung cancers. Its role in limited-stage small-cell lung cancer needs to be investigated further. Carboplatin is inferior to cisplatin in germ cell, head and neck, and esophageal cancers. Randomized studies are needed to determine whether carboplatin has equivalent efficacy to cisplatin in bladder, cervical, and endometrial cancers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)409-422
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Clinical Oncology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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