The discovery and development of new platinum-containing anticancer drugs have represented an integral part of anticancer drug development at the Institute of Cancer Research, Sutton, over almost 20 years. As part of a collaboration with chemists at Johnson Matthey, later AnorMED, four major new classes of platinum drug have been discovered, three of which have entered clinical trial. Earlier studies led to the clinical development of the less toxic analogue carboplatin and JM216, the first orally administerable platinum drug. In recent years, the focus has been on two lead complexes designed to overcome the major mechanisms of tumour resistance to cisplatin: JM335 (trans-ammine (cyclohexylaminedichlorodihydroxo) platinum(IV)), an active trans platinum complex; and ZD0473 (cis-amminedichloro(2-methylpyridine) platinum(II)), a sterically hindered complex shown to be less reactive towards thiol-containing molecules than cisplatin. JM335 shows some circumvention of acquired cisplatin resistance in vitro and exhibits unique cellular pharmacological properties in comparison to cisplatin or its cis-isomer in terms gene-specific repair of adducts on DNA and the rate of induction of apoptosis. ZD0473 is now in phase I clinical trial. Myelosuppression is the dose-limiting toxicity at a dose of 130 mg/m2 given i.v. every 3 weeks and there has been evidence of antitumour activity. ZD0473-resistant human ovarian carcinoma cell lines have been established in vitro. Some mechanisms of resistance common to those described for cisplatin (decreased drug uptake, increased glutathione) have been observed plus, in one cell line, increased BCL2 levels and loss of the DNA mismatch repair protein MLH1.