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A brief look at how BEP / EP chemo works

Cisplatin and BEP CHEMOTHERAPY how it was created

Barnett Rosenberg 
prof lawrence einhorn testicular cancer BEP chemotherapy
pROF Lawrence Einhorn

Barnett Rosenberg, In the fight against testicular cancer, medical science has made significant strides in the development of effective treatments.


One such breakthrough came with the discovery of cisplatin, a revolutionary chemotherapy drug that has saved countless lives and transformed cancer treatment. In this blog post, we will delve into the fascinating history of cisplatin and explore how this powerful chemotherapy agent was created, changing the landscape of cancer therapy forever.

The Discovery of Cisplatin: Cisplatin was first discovered in the early 1960s by accident. While researching the potential anticancer properties of electric fields on bacteria, Dr. Barnett Rosenberg, a biochemist at Michigan State University, observed an unusual phenomenon. He noticed that certain platinum electrodes inhibited bacterial cell division when an electric current passed through them.

This piqued Dr. Rosenberg's interest and led him to explore the possibility of using platinum compounds as a cancer treatment.

The Journey to Clinical Trials: After the serendipitous discovery of cisplatin's potential anticancer effects, further research ensued to understand its mechanism of action and safety for human use. Dr. Rosenberg collaborated with Dr. Loretta Van Camp, an oncology specialist, to investigate cisplatin's effects on cancer cells in animal models.


Their findings were promising, demonstrating that cisplatin could effectively inhibit tumor growth in various experimental settings.

These compelling results prompted the initiation of clinical trials in the late 1960s and early 1970s to evaluate the drug's effectiveness and safety in human cancer patients. The clinical trials primarily focused on treating testicular cancer, which was known to be resistant to conventional treatments at the time.

Clinical Success and FDA Approval: The clinical trials with cisplatin yielded remarkable outcomes, showcasing substantial response rates in patients with testicular cancer, even in those cases that were previously considered untreatable. The drug's ability to induce remission and improve survival rates was groundbreaking.

In 1978, based on the positive clinical trial data, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved cisplatin for the treatment of testicular and ovarian cancer. This marked a pivotal moment in the history of cancer therapy, as cisplatin became the first platinum-based chemotherapy drug to be approved for medical use.

Cisplatin works by forming crosslinks between DNA strands in rapidly dividing cancer cells, effectively preventing them from replicating and ultimately leading to cell death. Its specificity for cancer cells, while sparing healthy cells to some extent, made it a game-changer in cancer treatment.

Continued Research and Evolving Uses: Over the years, researchers have continued to study cisplatin and its derivatives, leading to the development of various platinum-based chemotherapy drugs. These innovations have expanded the application of platinum-based therapies to treat different types of cancer, including lung, bladder, head and neck, and many other cancers.

The discovery of cisplatin stands as a testament to the remarkable achievements of medical science. From a chance observation in a laboratory to becoming a cornerstone in cancer treatment, cisplatin has undoubtedly made a significant impact on countless lives. As researchers continue to explore novel therapies and combination treatments, the legacy of cisplatin will persist, driving us toward a future where cancer may one day be conquered.

Prof Lawrence Einhorn,

a prominent oncologist, played a pivotal role in creating the highly effective chemotherapy regimen known as BEP, which stands for Bleomycin, Etoposide, and Cisplatin.


In the late 1970s, Dr. Einhorn began experimenting with cisplatin in combination with other drugs to treat testicular cancer, a type of cancer that was previously difficult to cure.


Through rigorous clinical trials and innovative research, he demonstrated that the BEP chemotherapy regimen could achieve an astonishing 90% cure rate in patients with testicular cancer. This groundbreaking achievement revolutionized cancer treatment and set a new standard for combination chemotherapy, saving countless lives and becoming a cornerstone of cancer therapy worldwide.

Dr. Lawrence Einhorn's contributions to medical science and his dedication to improving cancer patients' outcomes have made him a true pioneer in the field of oncology.

BEP chemotherapy is a commonly used treatment regimen for testicular cancer, particularly for non-seminomatous germ cell tumours (NSGCTs). It consists of three drugs: Bleomycin, Etoposide, and Cisplatin. Each drug works in a different way to target and kill cancer cells.

  1. Bleomycin: Bleomycin is an anti-cancer drug that belongs to the class of medications known as DNA-damaging agents. It works by binding to DNA and causing breaks in the DNA strands, inhibiting the replication and transcription processes necessary for cancer cell growth and division. Bleomycin generates free radicals, which further damage DNA and induce oxidative stress, leading to cell death. Cancer cells are particularly sensitive to the effects of bleomycin due to their rapid proliferation                                                               

  2. Etoposide: Etoposide is a topoisomerase inhibitor, specifically targeting an enzyme called topoisomerase II. Topoisomerases are essential for DNA replication and transcription, as they help relieve tension and unwind DNA strands during these processes. Etoposide interferes with topoisomerase II, preventing it from properly sealing DNA strands back together after unwinding. As a result, DNA breaks occur, leading to the accumulation of DNA damage and the activation of cell death pathways.

  3. Cisplatin: Cisplatin is a platinum-based chemotherapy drug that works by forming covalent bonds with DNA molecules. When cisplatin enters the cancer cells, it binds to the DNA, causing cross-links between DNA strands. These cross-links prevent DNA from unwinding and undergoing replication and transcription.

  4. The interference with DNA structure and function triggers cell cycle arrest and induces apoptosis (programmed cell death) in cancer cells.

Combination Approach: The BEP regimen combines these three drugs to maximize the effectiveness of chemotherapy.


Each drug targets cancer cells through different mechanisms, increasing the likelihood of killing a broader range of cancer cells and reducing the chance of drug resistance.

Additionally, the BEP regimen is administered in cycles, allowing healthy cells to recover between treatments while maintaining the cumulative effect on cancer cells. This approach aims to eradicate cancer cells and prevent their further proliferation.

It's important to note that BEP chemotherapy can have side effects as it affects both cancer cells and healthy cells. Common side effects include fatigue, nausea, hair loss, decreased blood cell counts, and increased susceptibility to infections. However, these side effects are generally manageable and reversible once the treatment is completed.

Overall, the BEP chemotherapy regimen is designed to target and kill cancer cells through multiple mechanisms, disrupting DNA replication and inducing cell death. The combination of drugs in BEP therapy has shown to be effective in treating testicular cancer and improving patient outcomes.

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