The 20th century saw dramatic improvements in almost all types of cancer. This was largely due to the three main types of cancer treatment becoming widespread and highly effective. Radiation, chemotherapy and surgery all contributed to the radically increased survival rates across almost all types of cancer over this period.
However, some types of cancer, even those that saw dramatic improvements in survivability throughout the first part of the 20th century, eventually ended up seeing stagnating rates of increasing survivability throughout the latter half of the 20th century. This was due to a number of reasons, but most of it simply was a result of the traditional means of treatment having reached their peak effectiveness.
Clay Siegall is the founder of Seattle Genetics, one of the largest biotech firms in the United States and the only one solely dedicated to the creation of antibody drug conjugates, a type of targeted cancer therapy. Dr. Siegall has long been interested in finding ways to increase the survivability of many of the types of cancer that have seen their marginal improvements stagnate throughout the latter half of the 20th century.
Early on, Dr. Siegall decided to focus in on one type of cancer to develop the first FDA-approved antibody drug conjugate, called ADCetris. Non-hodgkin lymphoma has long been a major source of cancer deaths in the United States. However, due to its relatively low mortality rate and complex nature, significant mortality improvements had not been seen over the last 40 years. This, combined with the fact that up to 500,000 Americans are currently living with this disease, led Dr. Siegall to focus in on this ailment as the main disease to be treated by the first antibody drug conjugate.
After approximately a decade of research, Dr. Siegalls team had finally successfully completed the phase-three trials of ADCetris, leading to the first FDA approval of a antibody drug conjugate in the history of the world. Today, ADCetris is used to treat refractory non-Hodgkin lymphoma and is currently being considered for many other off-label uses. The drug has proven the concept of antibody drug conjugates and is saving lives every day.