In the middle part of the 20th century, huge strides were made in the treatment of cancer. Many types of cancer that had previously been virtual death sentences became diseases with which people could live for long periods or even become cured of entirely. Things like breast cancer, cervical cancer and melanoma became little more than chronic nuisances to millions of people who otherwise almost certainly would have died in an earlier era.
But despite all of these tremendous gains, over the next 30 years, cancer therapies failed to deliver on the promise of continual increases in survivability across all types of the disease. This was largely due to stagnation occurring as a result of the fact that almost all of the major gains had already been made. The true low-hanging fruit of cancer survivability was the ability of the medical community to create the triad of radiation, chemotherapy and surgical intervention as a means to effectively treat many different types of the disease.
But throughout the early 1990s, many cancer researchers began working on a new kind of cancer therapy. This promised to blow the lid off the glass ceiling that had been imposed on the survivability of many cancer types since the late 1950s. The new type of cancer therapy was known as targeted cancer therapies, a set of techniques, drugs and surgical interventions that promised to enable oncologists to directly go after the site of the tumor, sparing the body of all the collateral damage and horrific side effects that occurred through the use of traditional cancer treatment.
No one was more important in the development of this new field than a man by the name of Clay Siegall. As a senior researcher at Bristol-Myers Squibb, Dr. Siegall led a team of researchers to develop a highly innovative form of targeted cancer therapy known as antibody drug conjugates. These are a class of drugs that use synthetic human antibodies as a delivery mechanism to bring highly lethal cytotoxins directly to the site of malignant issues, thereby dramatically reducing the amount of the lethal agent released into the bloodstream.