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How It Works

Oxaliplatin interrupts cancer cell growth and slows the spread of cancer cells in the body. Oxaliplatin is available for use by intravenous (IV) injection.

Why It Is Used

Oxaliplatin is used in combination with other medicines to treat cancer, such as colorectal cancer. Oxaliplatin is also used to treat cancer that has spread to other parts of the body (metastasized), such as advanced ovarian cancer.

How Well It Works

Studies show that oxaliplatin may be effective in stopping some cancer cell activity that is resistant to some other anti-cancer drugs, such as cisplatin and carboplatin. Oxaliplatin seems to help people with metastatic colorectal cancer live longer when given with other medicines such as FOLFOX4 or with 5-FU and leucovorin.1

Side Effects

Oxaliplatin can cause serious side effects, including:

  • An allergic reaction.
  • Numbness, burning, and tingling. This is called sensory neuropathy.
  • Loss of feeling.
  • Mild, moderate, or severe pain.
  • Decreased bone marrow function.
  • Sores in the mouth or throat.
  • Severe vomiting or diarrhea.

Sensory neuropathy is a problem for some people who have chemotherapy with oxaliplatin. Nerves that are damaged by anti-cancer medicines may cause pain, tingling, numbness, or other uncomfortable sensations. It usually begins in the feet and hands and may get worse with time, spreading to other parts of the body. If it gets too bad, people are taken off oxaliplatin. Sometimes the neuropathy goes away after stopping the medicine. But for other people, the nerve damage may be permanent.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

Research studies continue to look at the use of oxaliplatin with other medicines to see which combinations help people live longer. Evidence from studies shows that different combinations work better depending on the stage of cancer.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF) (What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.



  1. National Cancer Institute (2009). Colon Cancer Treatment (PDQ): Health Professional Version. Available online: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/colon/healthprofessional/allpages.


By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Primary Medical Reviewer Brian D. O'Brien, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Arvydas D. Vanagunas, MD - Gastroenterology
Last Revised November 1, 2010

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.