What's old is new again in the fight against cancer

 Drugmakers are pouring billions of dollars toward the advancement of treatments that target cancer more precisely than mainstay treatments like radiation and chemotherapy. 

Antibody-drug conjugates, or ADCs, deliver targeted therapy specifically to cancer cells with the potential to minimize damage to healthy cells. Eleven had been approved by the FDA as of last June. While ADCs are not new, they began to attract more interest from drugmakers in recent years, which analysts say is likely due to improvements in technology that seem to have made newer iterations of the drugs safer and more effective, ultimately encouraging more investments in the space.

Pfizer acquired Seagen, a biotech focused on ADCs, for $43 billion last year. While this class of therapies is farthest along, drugmakers are also setting their sights on radiopharmaceuticals, according to a Feb. 20 Wall Street Journal report

Radiopharmaceuticals, a new take on an older treatment, contain radioactive substances and are used to both diagnose cancers and target cancer cells. The technology behind these drugs is more nascent relative to ADCs, but steady investments and acquisitions by large companies indicate they could become a much more significant part of combating cancer across the next decade, according to the Journal.

In the future, "The hope is that patients will be treated with an antibody-drug conjugate or radio conjugate or combinations of these therapies instead of chemo or external beam radiation," Puja Sapra, PhD, head of biological engineering and oncology targeted delivery at AstraZeneca, told the Journal.

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