Category Archives: Adcetris

Clay Siegall leads development of new drugs called antibody drug conjugates

For decades, the three main types of cancer treatment were radiation, chemotherapy and surgery. These treatments proved extremely effective for certain types of cancer. For example, breast cancer saw incredible gains in five-year survival rates since the introduction of all three of these treatment modalities. Other cancers, such as that of the colon and lung, have also seen huge improvement in survivability. However, the majority of these gains in survival were largely already realized by the end of the 1960s.

It wasn’t until well into the 1990s that truly revolutionary new cancer treatments began being synthesized. One category of such treatments is what is broadly termed targeted cancer therapies. These are therapies that, instead of systemically releasing large amounts of poison into the bloodstream, target the malignancy specifically, only going after cancer cells. This targeted approach has a potential to limit or even completely eliminate the horrible side effects associated with chemotherapy.

One class of targeted therapy drugs that has shown great promise is that of antibody drug conjugates. These drugs use synthetic human antibodies to target malignant tissues, binding a cytotoxic agent to the antibody and not allowing it to be released until contact is made with the cancer cells. This completely prevents the systemic release of the highly lethal poisons that make up most chemotherapeutic regimes. It also dramatically increases the amount of drugs that can safely be administered to any patient at one time. This allows for doses that would equivalently require 10 or even 20 chemotherapy sessions to be administered at one sitting with antibody drug conjugates.

The idea behind antibody drug conjugates was originally formulated by Clay Siegall, at that time, a senior researcher for Bristol-Myers Squibb. Dr. Siegall had spent more than 15 years in the cancer research business, receiving dozens of patents and materially contributing to the modern state of oncological medicine.

In 1998, Dr. Siegall founded Seattle Genetics, a company dedicated to the development of antibody drug conjugates. It had its first FDA approval with the drug ADCetris in 2011. To date, Seattle Genetics, under the leadership of Dr. Siegall, has saved thousands of lives.