Review the action of cisplatin as an anticancer drug and explore the properties of transition metal complexes

Several post-16 exam specifications require learners to know why cisplatin prevents DNA replication and explain why such drugs can have adverse effects. Use these exam-style questions alongside the article Designing cancer drugs to explore the role that chemistry plays in cancer treatment.

Learning Objectives

  • Apply an understanding of transition metal chemistry to the structure of cisplatin.
  • Understand the mechanism of cisplatin as a cancer drug.
  • Apply this knowledge to other platinum-based cancer drugs.


This resource is targeted at learners in the second year of a 16–18 course in chemistry. The resource consists of three parts. The first two parts are based on the knowledge required by many 16–18 specifications and curriculums, the third part explores the topic further with extension questions. 

Part 1 – exploring the structure of cisplatin using transition metal chemistry.

Part 2 – exploring the mechanism of cisplatin as an anticancer drug.

Part 3 – exploring other drugs in the platin family.

What are learners asked to do?

The resource requires learners to be able to draw the structure of cisplatin and show the mechanism of ligand substitution reaction with DNA by answering examination-style questions. It also contains introductory information about the structure of DNA.

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