Clay Siegall, Seattle Genetics and the Fight to Cure Cancer

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According to the National Cancer Institute, nearly 40 percent of men and women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with some form of cancer at some point during their lives. Every year, more than 600,000 people lose their battles with cancer in this country alone. Given these sobering statistics, it’s easy to feel like little to nothing is being done about horrible diseases like cancer, but nothing could be further from the truth. More than ever, biotech firms like Seattle Genetics are pushing the boundaries of cancer research and treatment. With men like Dr. Clay Siegall at their helm, it’s easy to see why these firms are making such incredible progress.

To understand the kind of work that is performed by firms like Seattle Genetics, it helps to have a basic understanding of human genes. Basically, the human body has more than 20,000 genes. The vast, vast majority of these genes work as required and don’t cause any problems. Every now and then, though, genes develop errors–or begin with them in the first place–that trigger them to grow wildly, as with cancer, or to experience other problems. Where treatments like radiation and chemotherapy bombard the entire body to fight cancer, targeted gene therapies zero in on the root problem. As these therapies are refined, it is hoped that fewer and fewer lives will be lost to cancer.

Researchers at universities and other facilities around the world are continuously working on ways to diagnose, treat and prevent cancer. At University Hospital of Lyon in the UK, for instance, researchers have developed a new test that is highly accurate at predicting the recurrence of bladder cancer. The test identifies the presence of TERT, a faulty protein, in the urine. The previous standard, cytology testing, had an accuracy rate of 34 percent; the new test has an accuracy rate that surpasses 80 percent.

Visionaries like Dr. Clay Siegall are surely also keeping their eyes on developments over in the Netherlands, where researchers at Radboud MC teaching hospital in Nijmejen have developed a quicker way to diagnose prostate cancer. Prostate cancer is one of the deadliest forms of cancer. When it is caught early, however, it is remarkably treatable. The new test uses MRI to detect changes in the prostate. If no changes are detected, no further testing is needed. If they are, however, tissues are then sent for analysis. Previously, ultrasounds and tissue samples were always required, and the process would take months.

Perhaps the most exciting development of all lately, however, is the promotion of whole genome sequencing by England’s chief medical officer, Prof Dame Sally Davies. Davies recently made a public request to the National Health Service, or NHS, to start offering DNA tests to cancer patients so that whole genome sequencing, or WGS, can be performed. WGS may then be used to identify more customized and effective treatments for cancer patients. Clearly, Davies has been shown the amazing promise that is held by WGS and stands firmly behind it.

Should the NHS follow Davies’ advice and start offering whole genome sequencing to all cancer patients, it could be the turning point that finally legitimizes this technique. Already, more than 31,000 NHS patients have undergone this testing. Many of them are cancer patients, so it will be interesting to see what happens from here. At around $900, the test is fairly expensive and beyond the financial reach of many. It is covered by the NHS in many cases, but there is no telling how insurance companies in the United States will handle it when it becomes more widespread.

Studies have shown that through whole genome sequencing, the diagnosis and treatment of various conditions can be improved in about two-thirds of cases. This type of testing allows doctors to develop customized treatments for cancer patients and others. That is because the testing can reveal genetic errors that have already been researched and that have already been effectively treated by specific drugs and therapies. As a result, if the same error is detected in a patient’s genes, they can more quickly be provided with a treatment that will really help. Many times, these treatments extend or even save lives.

All of these incredible advances depend on ongoing funding, and it isn’t always easy to come by. This is why it is so important to have innovative visionaries like Clay Siegall at the helm of today’s best biotech firms. Dr. Siegall and others in the industry understand the amazing promise that is held in targeted cancer therapies. Through his biotech firm, Seattle Genetics, Dr. Siegall helps to develop targeted therapy drugs for not only cancer but for diseases that have been largely ignored in the world of research for many decades. In doing so, he and his team help to spur innovative developments that hold amazing promise for countless people.

Dr. Clay Siegall did not become the founder and CEO of Seattle Genetics by accident. He already had an impressive list of credentials under his belt when he founded the biotech firm back in 1998. The firm quickly became a leader in the emerging field of antibody drug conjugate technology, or ADC technology. In addition to working tirelessly with Seattle Genetics, Dr. Siegall serves on the boards of directors of Mirna Therapeutics, Inc., Alder Biopharmaceuticals and Ultragenyx Pharmaceutical. He holds a BS in zoology from the University of Maryland and a PhD in genetics from George Washington University.

Prior to founding Seattle Genetics, Clay Siegall held positions with the National Cancer Institute of the NIH from 1988 until 1991. He also held positions with Bristol-Myers Squibb Pharmaceutical Research Institute from 1991 until 1997. Shortly thereafter, he founded Seattle Genetics, and the rest, as they say, is history. Today, Siegall continues to focus most of his efforts on his widely respected biotech firm, and he enjoys helping to advance our understanding of targeted cancer therapies. If you would like to stay on top of the latest developments in the world of cancer research, just keep an eye on what Dr. Siegall and his team are doing.

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