The 20th century saw major improvements in the way that cancer is treated. In the 1930s and 1940s, new treatments, such as radiation therapy, chemotherapy and advanced surgical techniques, came online, promising to dramatically lower the incidence of mortality for various types of cancer. These treatments proved to be a watershed in the survivability of many different forms of the disease. Some forms of cancer went from being almost universally fatal to being highly treatable and even curable. Diseases such as melanoma, breast cancer and prostate cancer went from being serious killers to merely inconvenient chronic ailments.
But despite the dramatic improvements in survivability that these new treatments brought with them, they also had a terrible cost. The majority of these treatments were administered almost to the point where they killed the patient. This was an unfortunate but necessary consequence of the ability of these treatments to kill malignant cells being completely dose-dependent. The higher the dose, the more lethal the effect of the treatments was on the tumors they were intended to target.
But the side effects associated with this type of lethal bombardment of the patient’s body were truly grievous. These included such problems as neuropathy, dementia and severe heart problems. In many cases, the chemotherapy itself was responsible for the patient’s ultimate death, rather than them being killed by the disease. This led many researchers to look for new solutions to treating cancer, ones that would not involve such horrible collateral damage.
One of those researchers was a man by the name of Clay Siegall. While working at pharmaceutical giant Bristol-Myers Squibb, Clay Siegall began developing a completely revolutionary class of drugs, known as antibody drug conjugates. By using synthetic human antibodies, antibody drug conjugates enable large doses of cytotoxin to be delivered directly to the site of the malignant tissues, decreasing side effects to almost unnoticeable levels, while drastically increasing the effectiveness of the treatment itself.
Today, Dr. Siegall is recognized the world over as one of the key figures in the development of this revolutionary new class of drugs. Antibody drug conjugates have saved thousands of lives and promise to make cancer a disease that will claim far fewer victims in the future.