Platinum-type drugs have proven to be valuable in the treatment of a variety of solid tumors, beginning with the commercial approval of cisplatin 18 years ago. There are several clinically important toxicities commonly associated with the administration of these drugs. Despite the extensive use of cisplatin and carboplatin, the fundamental chemical transformations and mechanisms that underlie their antitumor and toxic effects have not been fully characterized. Several first-generation protective thiols have been clinically studied in an attempt to reduce the toxicity of platinum-type drugs; while some of these agents appear to protect against certain toxicities, nearly all platinum-protecting drugs have their own intrinsic toxicities, which can be additive to the toxicity of platinum-type drugs. Tumor protection by platinum-protecting drugs is an additional untoward effect that is associated with certain types of agents and must be addressed with care. Recent advances in theoretical and laboratory methods and the use of supercomputers have extended our understanding of the possible major mechanisms underlying platinum drug antitumor activity and toxicity; we present strong evidence that there are two classes of chemical species of platinum drug. One class appears to predominantly account for the antitumor activity, and the other class of chemical species produces many of the toxic effects of platinum drugs. We have discovered a new nontoxic, second-generation platinum-protecting agent, known as BNP7787, which appears to selectively inactivate and eliminate toxic platinum species. BNP7787 has recently entered phase I clinical testing in cancer patients.