Cancer remains one of the most feared diseases in the world and a leading cause of death and disability for millions every year. Breast cancer in women and prostate cancer in men remain the most common types affecting thousands of Americans annually, and an increase in colon cancer, skin cancers, and many other types have led researchers to evaluate new methods for rapidly diagnosing and treating cancer. As we have known for many years now, the faster cancer can be diagnosed and treated, the better the outcome for the majority of patients.
Recent advances in the world of genetic testing have seen an increased speed and a reduced cost of genetic sequencing. This is opening up exciting windows of opportunity within the world of cancer research because it could mean the development of advanced techniques to diagnose and treat cancer in a more effective way. Industry leader Clay Siegall, co-founder of Seattle Genetics, discusses some of the recent technological advances in this field and the benefits that these scientific leaps could mean in the not so distant future.
The Human DNA Code
It’s estimated that humans have at least 20,000 genes and these genes connect and form a unique DNA code and sequence that is individual to each human being. Our DNA code is a result of our ancestry and is a complex system that makes us unique from any other individual on the planet. Up until recent years, however, extracting this code was something out of a science fiction novel. It appeared almost mystical and remained only partially understood concerning how it related to the development of specific diseases.
It has now been known for some time that our genes can predispose us to the development of certain diseases such as cancer. But much still needs to be learned about how this works, because the existence of a gene that predisposes an individual toward the development of cancer isn’t a guarantee that they will get that disease. This means that there are still many other factors that play a role, most likely related in part to diet, environment, and several other factors.
While professionals continue to look into other related factors that work along with genetic predispositions, much of the current research is being focused on extracting DNA code to more promptly and accurately diagnose cancer and then using this information to create targeted treatments for the disease.
What Significance does Genetic Testing have for Cancer Treatment?
Cancer isn’t one disease but is a broad term used to describe hundreds of diseases which differ in severity from person to person. These differences can be heavily influenced by a person’s genetics, hormones, and other aspects of their biological makeup. This is part of the reason why two individuals with the same diagnosis may not respond to the same treatment, or may at least respond in different ways.
The idea behind genetic sequencing when it comes to cancer research is based on the fact that we all have a unique genetic code running through our entire bodies, a DNA sequence that is unique to us alone. If this DNA code can be studied and applied to the diagnosis and treatment of serious diseases such as cancer, we can begin to make faster and more accurate diagnoses as well as provide targeted treatment options that are specific to each individual patient.
Advances in Testing for Prostate Cancer
An example of the recent advances in DNA sequencing and genetic testing is with the rapid diagnosis of prostate cancer. Prostate cancer remains extremely common, with about one man in every six men in the population being diagnosed with it at some point in their lifetime. By the age of 80, a whopping 80% of men have at least a mild form of prostate cancer.
In previous years, a prostate cancer diagnosis was a long and drawn out process, sometimes taking months of repeated blood work, ultrasounds, and biopsies to reach an official diagnosis and get treatment started. Recent advances in genome sequencing have allowed a Dutch hospital to design a method that allows for the prompt and accurate diagnosis of prostate cancer within two short weeks. This will allow patients to begin treatment promptly and get better and longer lasting results from the treatment they receive. Additionally, it allows treatment to be targeted to their specific type of prostate cancer by taking their genetic profile into account.
The Role of Industry Leader Clay Siegall & Seattle Genetics
Clay Siegall is the co-founder, President, and CEO of Seattle Genetics. Mr. Siegall is a scientist by trade, and his training focused primarily on the development of targeted cancer treatments using genetic and DNA mapping. Mr. Siegall created Seattle Genetics on the basis of scientific innovation and ingenuity, using detailed and rigorous research to create state-of-the-art methods of diagnosing and treating cancer on an individual basis to achieve better results for patients.
Seattle Genetics was born out of Mr. Siegall’s desire to help cancer patients after watching his own father suffer from the disease when he was 19. His father passed away when he was 24 years of age, at a time when detailed knowledge about how to diagnose and treat cancer more effectively was lacking. The loss of his father prompted Mr. Siegall to want to create better diagnosis and treatment options for cancer patients just like his father, so they could see better results from their treatment and have improved survival rates in the long run.
Seattle Genetics has now entered into exciting and promising partnerships with companies such as Genentech, GlaxoSmithKline, and Pfizer in an effort to create targeted drug therapies to further benefit cancer patients throughout the United States and other parts of the world.
Prior to co-founding Seattle Genetics, Clay Siegall was involved with the Bristol-Myers Squibb Pharmaceutical Research Institute as well as the National Cancer Institute, and he served on the board of directors for several other pharmaceutical companies. Mr. Siegall received his Ph.D. degree from George Washington University, where he studied Genetics. He also holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Zoology from the University of Maryland. Mr. Siegall has won many awards for his contributions to the field of genetic testing, cancer research, and the development and advancement of pharmaceutical drugs that have improved the lives of countless patients.