The 20th century was a virtual miracle of scientific breakthroughs and medical treatments that gave people the ability to fight diseases in ways that were never before imagined. Even so, many of the greatest breakthroughs in medical science of the 20th century involved the use of means that, by the standards of today’s breakthroughs, would probably seem quite crude. Some of the largest gains in public health were made by such inventions as the smallpox vaccine, the polio vaccine and things like radiation therapy and the perfection of surgical excision techniques for cancers. These all tended to be fairly crude tools, which were used in a sort of one-size-fits-all method, with most patients, no matter the details of their illness, receiving more or less the same treatment.
But as the pace of innovation leading to huge gains in life expectancy that took place in medicine through the 1970s began to stagnate throughout the 80s and 90s, a new form of medicine began to take shape. Known as precision medicine, the idea behind this new discipline was that each patient and their circumstances can be very different. This means that physicians can find huge opportunities for maximizing individual patient outcomes, through the use of therapies that are specifically tailored to that patient or a cohort that shares certain characteristics.
Today, much precision medicine research revolves around the ability of modern science to sequence human genomes. But other types of precision medicine focus on different methods of creating tailor-made treatments for individual patient cohorts. One such example of the use of novel precision medicine techniques is the development of the class of drugs known as antibody drug conjugates. These drugs are largely the product of the life’s work of one man, Clay Siegall, co-founder of Seattle Genetics, the leading pharmaceutical company in the antibody drug conjugate space.
Dr. Siegall has been instrumental in creating this new and exciting form of targeted cancer therapy. By using human-like antibodies to deliver lethal cytotoxins directly to the site of malignancies, antibody drug conjugates are capable of increasing the amount of drug that can be safely administered to patients at any one sitting, by tens or even hundreds of times. This has made the treatment of certain cancers a virtual slam dunk.