What is Carboplatin?
Carboplatin—whose brand name is Paraplatin—is an alkylating agent, a group of drugs that stop the growth of mesothelioma cells, and trigger their death through a process called apoptosis. Healthy cells normally undergo apoptosis after they divide a certain number of times. Cancer cells, however, continue to divide past the point of apoptosis, eventually forming a tumor. Carboplatin reintroduces apoptosis into a mesothelioma cell’s life cycle, stopping its uncontrolled reproduction. It does so by breaking through the cell wall and attaching itself to the cell’s DNA.
Doctors didn’t always use carboplatin to kill mesothelioma cells. Before the FDA approved it as a mesothelioma treatment in 1989, doctors used carboplatin to treat other diseases, like lung and ovarian cancer. The drug gained popularity as a mesothelioma treatment after researchers discovered that—in some patients—it produced less side effects than cisplatin, the drug from which it was developed.
How Doctors Give It
Doctors typically give Carboplatin to patients via intravenous (IV) drip, through a small, thin tube, or a longer, plastic tube. The treatment lasts 15 minutes, and patients usually receive it once every 4 weeks.
Compared to cisplatin, the other major, platinum-based drug doctors use to treat mesothelioma, carboplatin does not negatively affect the kidneys. It also gives patients less nausea. Like most chemotherapeutic drugs, however, carboplatin does cause side effects, including:
- Weakened immune system (caused by reduction of white blood cells)
Side effects are a byproduct of systemic chemotherapy, a type of chemotherapy that travels throughout a patient’s entire bloodstream, targeting cancer cells. Systemic treatment causes side effects when the chemotherapy kills healthy cells alongside cancer cells. When healthy cells die, side effects occur. Fortunately, side effects caused by the destruction of healthy cells are temporary. They start disappearing as soon as a patient completes chemotherapy.
Is It Right For You?
Only a qualified doctor who has experience treating mesothelioma—a rare disease—can choose which chemotherapy drug will work best for your diagnosis. Carboplatin is an ideal drug for patients who aren’t healthy enough to withstand side effects caused by cisplatin, the other platinum-based drug doctors use to treat mesothelioma. However, it is considerably weaker than cisplatin, and may be less effective. Your doctor will review your diagnosis, and help you decide if carboplatin—or any other mesothelioma treatment—can improve your prognosis.