Sales of Temozolomide*, an anti-cancer drug developed by Cancer Research UK scientists, have reached $1 billion**. The charity receives a percentage royalty on these sales, which it uses to invest in new research to beat cancer.
Temozolomide – a chemotherapy drug for patients with the most common form of brain tumour – was discovered 30 years ago in a Cancer Research UK laboratory led by Professor Malcolm Stevens, then at Aston University in Birmingham.
The charity also undertook the first clinical trials of the drug which proved its activity against glioblastoma multiforme – the most aggressive type of brain tumour accounting for over 50 per cent of all primary cases of the disease.
Based on these phase I and phase II trials – which were managed by Cancer Research UK’s Drug Development Office – the charity’s commercial and development arm Cancer Research Technology (CRT) licensed the drug to Schering-Plough which now markets the drug. The company undertook the pivotal phase III studies which found that temozolomide, when given in combination with radiotherapy, results in a significant increase in survival with minimal side effects.
Dr Keith Blundy, chief executive of CRT, said: “We’re delighted that Temozolomide has achieved sales of over $1 billion. We’re extremely proud of our involvement in the licensing of Temozolomide as it has proved to be an effective treatment for people with brain tumours who otherwise have very limited treatment options.
“The royalties we receive from the sales of Temozolomide go straight back into the pot to fund further research to aid the development of even more drugs to help in our fight against the disease.”
The standard of care for glioblastoma multiforme – also known as glioma – includes chemotherapy during and after radiotherapy. The use of temozolomide both during radiotherapy and for six months post radiotherapy is now the gold standard treatment for most cases of the disease. Temozolomide works by killing cancer cells and sensitising them to the effects of radiation.
Harpal Kumar, chief executive of Cancer esearch UK, said: “This milestone highlights the significant impact our research is having on cancer drug development. It is testament to the ingenuity of the scientists who developed the original compound as well as the unique capabilities of our drug development and technology transfer teams.”
Cancer Research UK scientists have contributed to the discovery or early clinical development of 5-10 per cent of all major cancer treatments currently in clinical use around the world and has taken over 100 new drugs into patients for the first time.
Harpal Kumar continued: “This is just the latest example in a long list of successful treatments that have come out of Cancer Research UK funded research. Our scientists helped to discover and develop two of the most widely used cancer drugs in the world – carboplatin and cisplatin – which are used to treat ovarian, lung and testicular cancer.
“We also have a very exciting pipeline of almost 50 new drugs currently in clinical trials which could provide further significant weapons in the fight against cancer. Of these, several are in phase III development, including three potential new drugs for lung cancer, a disease in which we have sadly made little progress over the past few decades.
“Today’s news is a fantastic example of how the public’s investment, through their generous donations, in Cancer Research UK pays off.”
For media enquiries, please contact the Cancer Research UK press office on 020 7061 8300 or, out of hours, the duty press officer on 07050 264 059.
*Temozolomide is also known by its brand names Temodar and Temodal. It is a type of drug known as an alkylating agent and it works by stopping cancer cells from making new DNA. If cancer cells cannot make DNA, they can’t split into two new cancer cells. Temozolomide comes as a capsule that can be swallowed.
**Sales of Temomozolmide were $1.002bn in 2008.
About brain cancer
Around 4,500 people are diagnosed with a brain tumour each year in the UK, and around 3,500 die from the disease. Brain tumours account for two per cent of all cancers diagnosed in the UK. Just over half – 52 per cent – of brain tumours diagnosed in the UK are gliomas.