Dr. Clay Siegall's Remarkable Career full of Inspiration

A stunning statistic about the prevalence of cancer comes from the National Cancer Institute: nearly 40 percent of men and women can expect a cancer diagnosis during their lifetimes. Under the guidance of Dr. Clay Siegall, Seattle Genetics had a beginning as a small startup but has achieved status in cancer research. As its co-founder and CEO, he leads a company that takes on the toughest challenges in the medical field by developing therapeutic drugs for diseases that have high mortality rates.

Targeting Cancer with Revolutionary Science
As an innovative leader in oncology biotechnology, Siegall’s research company develops and markets new cancer drugs that use antibody-based therapies to expand treatment options. Seattle Genetics leads the industry with its technology for developing antibody-drug conjugates (ADC) that may provide improved outcomes for cancer patients. The company considers ADCs as an essential component of the emerging cancer treatment paradigm because of the stability and potency with which they target specific conditions.

A focus on a search for cancer treatment through research drugs keeps the company on the leading edge of medical science for patients who need it the most. Its ADCs treat lymphomas, a type of cancer that targets the immune system and white blood cells. The disease may occur as Hodgkin’s lymphoma that presents about 8,000 new cases each year primarily among young people or non-Hodgkin with more than 70,000 diagnoses usually among the elderly.

A collaboration between Seattle Genetics and Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Limited produced ADCetris that has commercial distribution in 66 countries around the world. The drug treats for relapsed classical Hodgkin lymphoma (HL) as well as relapsed systemic anaplastic large cell lymphoma (sALCL). Research continues at the company’s Bothell, Washington headquarters to achieve breakthroughs in ADCs that can treat acute myeloid leukemia and develop more ways to help patients confront unmet medical needs.

Benefiting from the Work of the Research Community
While Dr. Siegall leads his Seattle Genetics in the search for innovative drugs for treating breast and bladder cancers, research continues around the world. In Holland, the Radboud MC Hospital has found a method for diagnosing prostate cancer more rapidly than traditional techniques provide. The ultrasound scan and testing of random samples that the teaching hospital in Nijmegen uses can produce a diagnosis within two weeks instead of months. Doctors can give a patient an all clear report unless doubts create a need for tissue samples. A benefit of the new procedure is a lower cost for about 40,000 patients who take the test each year for prostate cancer, the most common type of cancer among Dutch men.

In France, researchers at the University of Lyon are using a simple urine test to predict a recurrence of bladder cancer. The scientists look for TERT, a faulty protein that predicted the condition in more than 80 percent of the 348 patients who took the test. The method detects a recurrence of bladder cancer about twice as efficiently as cytology testing, the current technique that finds about 34 percent of cases. Advances in technology allow a machine to read and present the results, preventing the need for a doctor to examine them under a microscope. The test can distinguish between cancer and urinary tract infections, demonstrating a robust ability to avoid misleading results.

England’s chief medical officer recommends DNA testing for cancer patients as a way to choose the most effective treatment, and she wants it to become as routine as biopsies and blood tests. Sharing some little-known facts, she notes that the human body has about 20,000 genes, the bits of DNA that contain the codes that control how the body works. She points to the occurrence of small defects that can exist in the code, a condition that may lead to cancer as well as other illnesses.

Considering the Status of Cancer Research in the US
The Annual Report on Progress Against Cancer from the American Society of Clinical Oncology cites the contributions of the National Cancer Act of 1971 to the research that delivers treatment faster today than it has in previous years. In only one year, the Food and Drug Administration approved 20 treatments for a dozen or more types of cancer, and one of them is cancer immunotherapy. New therapies have the capability to detect changes at the molecular level in a tumor or free-floating DNA in a patient’s blood.

NBC News reported on a study in the New England Journal of Medicine that presents a new way to treat breast, prostate and ovarian cancers without the side effects of chemotherapy. Scientists find that poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) inhibitors can combine with genetic defects to defeat these types of cancer.

Understanding the Dedication of Dr. Clay Siegall
Preparation for a career that focuses on providing targeted drugs for cancer patients started when Dr. Siegall earned an undergraduate degree in zoology and a Ph.D. in genetics while he was watching his father succumb to cancer. Following 17 years of experience at the National Institute of Health and six as a pharmaceutical researcher for Bristol-Meyer Squibb, he was on the West Coast and ready to co-found Seattle Genetics in 1998.

Siegall attributes his success to hard work and determination. He cites a quotation from Charles Darwin, the biologist who originated the theory of evolution, which ranks IQ as secondary to a willingness to work hard. A belief in Darwin’s opinion that people do not differ in intellect motivated Dr. Siegall to “work intensely and with great focus” to succeed. His career sets an inspirational example of the power of preparation and determination.


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