The use of cisplatin in cancer chemotherapy is limited by acquired or intrinsic resistance of cells to the drug. Cisplatin enters the cells and its chloride ligands are replaced by water, forming aquated species that react with nucleophilic sites in cellular macromolecules. The presence of the cisplatin adducts in DNA is thought to trigger cell cycle arrest and apoptosis. Knowledge of the mechanism of action of cisplatin has improved our understanding of resistance. Decreased intracellular concentration due to decreased drug uptake, increased reflux or increased inactivation by sulfhydryl molecules such as glutathione can cause resistance to cisplatin. Increased excision of the adducts from DNA by repair pathways or increased lesion bypass can also result in resistance. Finally, altered expression of regulatory proteins involved in signal transduction pathways that control the apoptotic pathway can also affect sensitivity to the drug. An improved understanding of the mechanisms of resistance operative in vivo has identified targets for intervention and may increase the utility of cisplatin for the treatment of cancer.