Clay Siegall develops new line of effective cancer drugs

Dr. Clay Siegall Is one of the nation’s leading cancer researchers and CEO of Seattle Genetics, the nation’s foremost maker of antibody-drug conjugates. Over the last 20 years, Dr. Siegall has led the firm from humble beginnings to becoming the nation’s preeminent maker of targeted cancer therapy drugs.


Dr. Clay Siegall started out as an undergraduate, not knowing exactly what he wanted to focus on for the rest of his career. While in college, he became aware of the brutalities of chemotherapy treatment when his father was stricken with a rare form of cancer. This led Dr. Siegall to pursue a doctorate degree in genetics, which he eventually obtained from George Washington University in 1988.


From there, Dr. Siegall went on to work with the National Cancer Institute for four years. There, he was introduced to a new field of study in the development of cancer drugs called targeted cancer therapy. These were a class of drugs that were designed to specifically seek out tumor cells and attack them alone. In theory, this would allow highly effective drugs to be developed that had none of the horrible side effects of the current treatments of chemotherapy, radiation and radical surgery.


Dr. Siegall was eventually approached by pharmaceutical giant Bristol-Myers Squibb and was hired on as a senior researcher in 1992. While there, he led a team of researchers developing a completely new class of drugs called antibody drug conjugates. Antibody drug conjugates are a form of highly effective, precise targeted cancer therapy that uses synthetic versions of the body’s immune response to tumors. Unfortunately, the body is really effective in producing antibodies that can actually eliminate cancer cells. However, those antibodies are effective at finding those cancer cells and attaching to them.


Antibody drug conjugates use this tumor seeking behavior of the antibodies themselves but modify the antibodies by placing or conjugating highly cytotoxic chemotherapeutic agents to their surface. In this way, the drugs can effectively locate the tumor cells, only releasing the chemotherapeutic agent upon contact with them. This reduces the systemic release of highly poisonous chemotherapeutic agents to virtually zero. In doing so, it dramatically widens the therapeutic window, allowing for massively lethal doses to the tumor cells to be given on any one course of treatment.




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