Transformative science

AbbVie scientists combine deep biologic knowledge with cutting-edge research technology to advance cancer care.

Key areas of biology

Regulated cell death – apoptosis

Apoptosis is a form of regulated cell death, a natural process that eliminates damaged, unneeded or dangerous cells from the body.1 Through our deep knowledge of apoptosis and the role impaired apoptosis can play in the proliferation of cancer cells, we are advancing novel cancer research.  

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Immuno-oncology

Immuno-oncology therapies aim to use the body’s own immune system to help fight cancer.2 Regular function of natural immune effector mechanisms for tumor detection and elimination may help prevent the growth and spread of tumors.

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B-cell signaling

Interfering with the communication signals of malignant B cells is a potential strategy for treating some types of cancer.3 AbbVie is investigating key enzymes in the B cell receptor signaling complex that play an important role in the survival and expansion of malignant B cells.

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Novel tumor targeting

Antigens are markers on cells that can be used to specifically target cells that express the marker, including cancer cells, with therapeutic agents. The ideal antigen is present on cancer cells but not on normal cells. At AbbVie, we are leveraging our expertise across multiple technology platforms to identify novel antigens and research therapeutic approaches needed to target them.

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Cutting edge technologies

Antibodies and bi-specifics

Antibodies are proteins that bind to specific markers (antigens) on tissue cells with the purpose of destroying the antigen.4 AbbVie’s antibody technologies enable research and development of therapies with highly-targeted potential.

Targeted protein degradation

Protein degradation is a way to route exhausted proteins to the proteasome, the cell’s trash compactor, for disposal. Protein degraders are designed to bind to a protein of interest forcing the two proteins to meet and be sent for disposal.5

Antibody Drug Conjugates (ADCs)

ADCs are monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) attached to a cytotoxic drug that targets and delivers potent toxins directly to cancer cells.6 ADCs could allow researchers to direct therapies to the intended tumor target.

Cellular therapies

Cellular therapies (e.g., “CAR-T” therapy) attack cancers with immune cells engineered to directly target and kill tumor cells. AbbVie is focused on research and development of the next generation of cellular therapies, for both solid tumors and hematologic malignancies.7

More about oncology research

For US health care professionals interested in learning more about our oncology research, visit our oncology scientific site.

Technology stories


What do tumors and snowflakes have
in common?

Through the use of new technologies, scientists are finding that like snowflakes, no two tumors are alike.

See the story


On-and-off switches for more precise medicines against cancer

Protein engineering is allowing researchers to program antibodies so they turn on and off in certain conditions to more precisely target tumors.

Read the story

[1] Cory S, Huang DCS, Adams JM. The Bcl-2 family: roles in cell survival and oncogenesis. Oncogene. 2003;22:8590-8607.
[2] Cancercare.org. Understanding the Role of Immuno-Oncology in Treating Cancer- Immuno-Oncology. Retrieved from: https://www.cancercare.org/publications/285-understanding_the_role_of_immuno-oncology_in_treating_cancer. Accessed January 2019.
[3] Burger, JA, Ghia P, et al. The microenvironment in mature B-cell malignancies: a target for new treatment strategies. Blood. 2009. 114:3367-3375
[4] National Cancer Institute (2018). NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms: Antibody. https://www.cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/cancer-terms/def/antibody.
[5] Jarvis, LM. Targeted Protein Degraders Are Redefining How Small Molecules Look and Act. Chemical & Engineering News. https://cen.acs.org/articles/96/i8/targeted-protein-degraders-are-redefining-how-small-molecules-look-and-act.html. Accessed March 2019.
[6] Peters, C. & Brown, S. Antibody–drug conjugates as novel anti-cancer chemotherapeutics. Biosci Rep. 2015. 35:1-20.
[7] Dana Farber Cancer Institute. (2019). CAR T-Cell Therapy. [online] Available at: https://www.dana-farber.org/cellular-therapies-program/car-t-cell-therapy/ [Accessed 10 May 2019].