Oncology Science

AbbVie scientists combine deep biologic knowledge with cutting-edge research technology to advance cancer care. AbbVie is currently evaluating compounds in more than 200+ active clinical trials in various settings around the world as potential treatment options for 20+ types of cancer.   

Transformative Therapies

In oncology discovery and early development, we are utilizing key therapeutic pathways and methods to identify the best ways to treat people living with cancer. 


Immunotherapies strengthen a patient’s immune system to detect and attack tumors.[1] AbbVie is researching various approaches to trigger immune cells to be activated only in the tumor itself.

Apoptosis, or programmed cell death, is an essential natural process to eliminate damaged, unneeded or infected cells from the body.[2]  For more than 20 years, AbbVie’s scientists have pioneered research on how to activate apoptosis in cancer cells.

Cancer Stem Cells
Cancer stem cells are cells responsible for tumor initiation.[3] AbbVie is utilizing its large tumor bank of patient derived tumor models to identify novel cancer stem cells and develop selective medicines that target these cells.


Antibody Drug Conjugates (ADCs)
ADCs are monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) that bind directly to specific markers on a cancer cell and deliver a cytotoxic agent.[4] ADCs could allow us to direct the therapy straight to the intended tumor target.

A bispecific is a biological therapy that combines the function of two different antibodies to target different tumor cell markers on diseased tissue.[5]  With our bispecifics platform, we can create a wide range of protein  constructs leading to new biology with different mechanisms of action.  

Antibodies are proteins that bind to specific markers (antigens) on tissue cells with the purpose of destroying the antigen.[6] AbbVie’s antibody technologies enable us to develop highly targeted therapies.

Oncology Stories

Five Reasons Why Small Cell Lung Cancer is Tough to Treat

Researchers continue to bring into focus the reasons why small cell  lung cancer is tough to treat – and what can be done about it.

Oncology Research Locations

AbbVie’s commitment to new thinking and approaches that make a greater impact on the treatment of cancer is brought to life at all six of our oncology research and development sites across the world.

  • Lake County, IL, USA
  • Redwood City, CA, USA
  • Pharmacyclics, Sunnyvale, CA, USA
  • San Francisco, CA, USA
  • Worcester, MA, USA
  • Ludwigshafen, Germany

[1] Finn, O. J. Immuno-oncology: understanding the function and  dysfunction of the immune system in cancer. Ann Oncol. 2012; (Supplement8): viii6–viii9.

[2] Alberts, B., Johnson, A., Lewis, J., Morgan, D., Raff, M., Roberts, K., & Walter, P. (2015). Cell death,  Molecular biology of the cell (6th ed.). (pp. 1021-1034). New York, NY: 
Garland Science.

[3] Frank, N. Y., Schatton, T., & Frank, M. H. (2010). The therapeutic promise of the cancer stem cell concept. J Clin Invest. 2010;120(1):41-50.

[4] Peters, C. & Brown, S. Antibody–drug conjugates as novel  anti-cancer chemotherapeutics. Biosci Rep. 2015. 35:1-20.

[5] Kontermann R. E. & Brinkmann, U. Bispecific antibodies. Drug Discovery Today.  2015;20(7):838-847.

[6] National Cancer Institute (2018). NCI Dictionary  of Cancer Terms: Antibody.  https://www.cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/cancer-terms/def/antibody.
Accessed April 2018.