Using isogenic mouse embryonic fibroblasts and human cancer cell lines, we show that cells defective in base excision repair (BER) display a cisplatin-specific resistant phenotype. This was accompanied by enhanced repair of cisplatin interstrand cross-links (ICLs) and ICL-induced DNA double strand breaks, but not intrastrand adducts. Cisplatin induces abasic sites with a reduced accumulation in uracil DNA glycosylase (UNG) null cells. We show that cytosines that flank the cisplatin ICLs undergo preferential oxidative deamination in vitro, and AP endonuclease 1 (APE1) can cleave the resulting ICL DNA substrate following removal of the flanking uracil. We also show that DNA polymerase β has low fidelity at the cisplatin ICL site after APE1 incision. Down-regulating ERCC1-XPF in BER-deficient cells restored cisplatin sensitivity. Based on our results, we propose a novel model in which BER plays a positive role in maintaining cisplatin cytotoxicity by competing with the productive cisplatin ICL DNA repair pathways.