One of the most serious problems in treating cancer with the traditional means of chemotherapy has been the inability to administer large amounts at any given time due to the extreme side effects associated with its use. In theory, a given amount of chemotherapy could destroy virtually any malignant tissue, no matter how extensive or how large. However, this simply cannot be carried out on almost any patient. This is because of the fact that the side effects of chemotherapy, which include death, are so severe that the amount that can be given at any one time is severely limited.
One solution that has been devised over the years to this problem of what doctors referr to as a small therapeutic window for chemotherapeutic agents has been the development of a new type of drugs called targeted cancer therapies. Rather than being released systemically, into the patient’s bloodstream, targeted cancer therapies are directly aimed at the tumor itself, avoiding large-scale release of chemotherapeutic agents and other highly lethal cytotoxins into the patient’s body.
One subtype of these targeted cancer therapies has been the development of a class of drugs known as antibody drug conjugates. No one has been more instrumental in development of this class of highly innovative drugs than Clay Siegall. After a distinguished career as a medical researcher for more than 15 years, with firms from the National Cancer Institute to Bristol-Myers Squibb, Dr. Siegall broke off on his own in 1998, forming his own biotech start-up, Seattle Genetics. Seattle Genetics’ sole purpose was to develop new forms of antibody drug conjugates, eventually leading to a widespread acceptance of the new kind of drug.
Under Dr. Siegall’s sagacious leadership, Seattle Genetics developed a large portfolio of drugs and intellectual processes throughout the 2000’s. By 2011, the firm had already seen its first antibody drug conjugate approved by the FDA for use in refractory non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. This marked a major milestone for antibody drug conjugates in general, as this was the first drug of its kind to be approved by the FDA for public use.
Today, that drug, ADCetris, has been responsible for saving thousands of lives. Dr. Siegall continues leading his company to develop more of these innovative drugs.