Throughout the last 50 years, many types of cancer have seen scant improvement in their mortality rates. This has largely been due to the majority of benefits in cancer treatment coming from the advent of chemotherapy, radiation and surgical techniques developed throughout the 40s, 50s and 60s. Unfortunately, this has left many patients with cancer such as pancreatic cancer, hepatocellular carcinoma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in the undesirable circumstance of having a disease that has not given any cause for hope in more than 50 years.

But one company, Seattle Genetics, led by its dynamic highly renowned CEO, Clay Siegall, has decided to tackle the problem of cancer types that have not seen major improvements in mortality. Seattle Genetics was founded in 1998, when Dr. Siegall decided to leave his prior job as a senior researcher at pharmaceutical giant Bristol-Myers Squibb. This momentous decision would eventually lead to one of the most important biotech firms in America today being formed.

But the going was not always easy. For the first three years, Dr. Clay Siegall struggle to build the company into a viable biotech firm, quickly going through the firm’s venture capital and nearly running into insolvency. But in 2001, Dr. Siegall oversaw the initial public offering of Seattle Genetics, raising over $1 billion, one of the largest IPOs in the history of the pharmaceutical industry.

Over the next 10 years, Dr. Siegall led his firm to focus on cancer types that had not seen serious improvements in mortality over the past 30 to 40 years. One of these cancer types was non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system that is not as deadly as some cancers but that kills a large number of people every year due to the sheer number of cases. Dr. Siegall decided to target this cancer using the highly innovative new form of cancer therapy called antibody drug conjugates. These are drugs that use human antibodies to deliver a lethal cytotoxin directly to the site of the tumor, avoiding the systemic release of chemotherapeutic agents into the bloodstream.

 

Today, antibody drug conjugates are a mainstay in the treatment of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.