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Modern cancer treatments have allowed patients with the most serious forms of the disease to live for periods of time that, in centuries past, were scarcely imaginable. Since the 1950s, diseases like prostate cancer and even lung cancer have become not just fightable but beatable. Initially, these incredible gains in the fight against cancer were attributable primarily to the three main types of cancer treatment that took hold since the 1940s. These were radiation, chemotherapy and surgery. Unfortunately, all of these treatments had horrible side effects, including permanent disability and even death from the treatment itself.

It was the horrible side effects themselves that led to the search for new and more tolerable forms of cancer treatment that would retain or even improve upon the effectiveness of the old treatments. Throughout the late 1980s and 1990s, a new kind of cancer treatment began to take hold. This was known as targeted cancer therapy, a class of drugs that targets the cancer cells individually, leading to the reduction or elimination of many of the terrible side effects associated with such treatment as chemotherapy and radiation.

One of the key figures in the development of targeted cancer therapy has been Clay Siegall. As a researcher for the National Cancer Institute for more than four years and for Bristol-Myers Squibb for almost an entire decade, Dr. Siegall has worked on some of the most cutting-edge targeted cancer treatments in the world today. He was one of the first to begin synthesizing a viable treatment in the form of antibody drug conjugates, a technology that uses human antibodies or synthetic antibodies to deliver a highly lethal cytotoxin directly to the surface of the tumor. This ability to only release the cytotoxin on contact with a malignant tissue virtually eliminates the systemic release of the chemotherapeutic agent into the bloodstream. In theory, this has the capability of completely eliminating all side effects from the treatment.

In 1998, Dr. Siegall went on to found his own company, Seattle Genetics, which was solely dedicated to the development of new forms of antibody drug conjugates. Throughout the 2000’s, Dr. Siegall began zeroing in on a particular form of antibody drug conjugate that would treat a form of cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, that had not seen significant improvement over the prior decades.

The resultant drug was ADCetris. Today, ADCetris saves thousands of lives every year.


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