Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, targeted cancer therapy evolved as a direct response to the horrendous side effects normally caused by traditional means of cancer treatment. Radiation, chemotherapy and surgery often have horrendous side effects, leading to permanent disability and even death. It has been these horrible side effects that have been one of the main limiting factors in the effectiveness of chemotherapy itself, severely limiting the amount of the drug that can be administered at any one time.
This has led to a number of major biotech firms developing new forms of targeted cancer therapies. The idea behind targeted therapies is that if the malignant tissue can be directly targeted, the widespread systemic release of chemotherapeutic agents, which are tantamount to poison, can be avoided. This could theoretically reduce the side effects or eliminate them entirely. It could also dramatically increase the amount of the drug that can be given in one course of treatment, potentially leading to something equivalent to a cure.
No one has been more instrumental in the development of these exciting new classes of drugs than Clay Siegall. As the CEO and founder of Seattle Genetics, the only biotech firm in the world solely dedicated to the creation of antibody drug conjugates, a sophisticated form of targeted cancer therapy, Dr. Siegall has focused in on creating drugs to improve the survivability of cancer types that have seen stagnation in their research over the last 40 to 50 years.
In the year 2011, Seattle Genetics was granted its first FDA approval for an antibody drug conjugate. ADCetris was approved for treatment in refractory non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a form of cancer that affects up to 500,000 people per year in the United States and kills about 6.3 per 100,000 people in the general population each year. Today, ADCetris is saving countless lives and is being investigated in phase-three trials for off-label uses that include being used as a front-line treatment in non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma as well as many other diseases.