Although cancer treatments made gigantic leaps throughout the 20th century, over the past 30 years, many types of cancer have seen deep stagnation in the rates of improvement of survival. This has been due to a number of factors, notably the fact that the gains provided by the treatment methods of radiation, chemotherapy and surgery in the middle of the 20th century were so dramatic that additional improvements in survivability of a similar magnitude were rendered less likely.
However, there are still many potential areas of vast improvement. Although many experts tend to agree that cancer, as a single entity, may never see an actual cure, many of these experts believe that, someday, cancer will be able to be treated in much the same way as AIDS or hepatitis, with patients being able to coexist with the disease and enjoy life spans that are more or less normal.
No one has been doing more to improve the survivability of cancer overall, continuing to make large gains across all types of cancer survivability than Clay Siegall. After having led a team of researchers at pharmaceutical giant Bristol-Myers Squibb in the 1990s, Dr. Siegall decided to branch out and form his own company that would be dedicated solely to the development of the class of drugs that he was developing while at the former firm. Known as antibody drug conjugates, these drugs are a type of targeted cancer therapy, a class of drugs which target the tumor directly, rather than releasing large amounts of poisonous chemotherapeutics agents into the bloodstream.
The advantages of this type of targeted cancer therapy approach are virtually boundless, at least in theory. Without having to release large amounts of cytotoxic agents into the bloodstream, the amount and severity of side effects can be dramatically reduced and even virtually eliminated.
After founding Seattle Genetics, Dr. Siegall was quickly able to bring to market the first successful antibody drug conjugate. Call the ADCetris, this drug successfully reduces side effects by huge margins and has saved thousands of lives.