Scientists gathered from across the world last week to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the start of the research project which led to the discovery of Temodal, at Aston University, Birmingham, UK.
The event comes with the news that in 2008 the drug is set to break sales of over 1 billion US dollars per year.
In 1978 Robert Stone (pictured right), a local Aston graduate, joined the research project under instructions to "make some interesting molecules". By 1980 he had synthesised several molecules which went on to improve thousands of lives through use for brain tumours.
The day saw the team reunited for photo shoots, TV interviews, speeches and much reminiscing,
with some air of the original camaraderie of the group recreated.
Temozolomide was such a great success story because it was entirely funded by charity, pushed through by Cancer Research Campaign (now Cancer Research UK), and discovered at a non red-brick university.
"Someone asked me recently if we were surprised on discovering the anti-tumour activity of these compounds. How could you not be surprised given that governments and multi-national pharmaceutical companies with huge resources struggle to match this success? Of course we were surprised, but the success came as a result of well-led, focused and motivated team", commented Robert Stone.
Originally developed as Azolastone, the drug was found to cure every type of cancer in mice but a lack of such behaviour in humans, coupled with unacceptable toxicity, meant it had to be abandoned and re designed from scratch in 1984.
As it turned out the chemical was only a few atoms away from a far less toxic concoction.
"The discovery now seems so long ago but it is gratifying to know that it helps more and more people each year. It serves to remind us we must embrace long term research and developmental horizons, and have people with vision, belief and tenacity to lead these research teams to achieve success", commented Professor Malcolm Stevens, team leader on the temozolomide project.
Ongoing studies and clinical trials are investigating further increasing the anticancer potency of temozolomide by combining it with other pharmacologic agents. Clinical trials have indicated that the addition of chloroquine might be beneficial for the treatment of glioma patients.
In other laboratory studies, it was found that temozolomide killed brain tumour cells more efficiently when epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), a component of green tea, was added; however, the efficacy of this effect has not yet been confirmed in brain tumour patients.
More temozolomide news from ecancer here
Read ecancer research article "A Phase II Study of Thalidomide and Temozolomide in Patients With Brain Metastases From Malignant Melanoma. Lymphopenia Correlates With Response" (free registration required).
Watch the BBC report on the day's celebrations
We are an independent charity and are not backed by a large company or society. We raise every penny ourselves to improve the standards of cancer care through education. You can help us continue our work to address inequalities in cancer care by making a donation.
Any donation, however small, contributes directly towards the costs of creating and sharing free oncology education.
Together we can get better outcomes for patients by tackling global inequalities in access to the results of cancer research.
Thank you for your support.