Among the miracle drugs invented in the 20th century was chemotherapy. This mainstay of modern cancer treatment has saved so many millions of lives that the actual number cannot even be tallied. Many types of cancer that were once considered absolute death sentences, such as melanoma or breast cancer, are today minor nuisances that people can live with for the rest of their lives.
Still, for all its huge successes, chemotherapy very quickly ran into diminishing returns. The types of cancer that it helped defeat it defeated roundly, allowing for people to be completely cured of the disease and live normal lives at normal lengths. However, for other types of cancer, chemotherapy has proven to be far less effective. Many people do not realize that this is a direct result not of the drugs being ineffective themselves but of the patient simply not being able to tolerate the dosages that would be required to shrink or eliminate the tumors of these more aggressive forms of cancer.
This has been the problem that has plagued doctors and medical researchers alike in the fight to discover ways to administer more lethal dosages of chemotherapy to tumors. One of the potential solutions to this problem has been a broad class of drugs known as targeted cancer therapies. This subset of precision medicine seeks to allow for the specific targeting of malignant tissues with massive dosages of cytotoxic agents. The idea is that if the cytotoxins can only be released into or directly in the vicinity of the malignant tissues, then large-scale systemic release of highly lethal poisons can be avoided.
One of the most exciting forms of targeted cancer therapy that have been devised is known as antibody drug conjugates. First synthesized by world renowned researcher Clay Siegall, at Bristol-Myers Squibb, Dr. Siegall has since been able to perfect this mode of treatment, creating the first biotech startup company dedicated solely to the production of antibody drug conjugates.
Through his company, Seattle Genetics, Dr. Siegall has been able to get the first fully FDA-approved antibody drug conjugate to market. Today, these drugs save thousands of lives.