FDA approves ovarian cancer surgery drug that illuminates cancer cells

The Food and Drug Administration has approved a new drug that will help surgeons while they’re removing ovarian cancer.

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Cytalux was developed by Purdue University.

It is an imaging agent that will help doctors see hidden ovarian tumors and cancer cells that would not otherwise be able to be seen by turning them a fluorescent green.

Before surgery, doctors give a patient an IV injection that binds to cancer cells. During the late-stage clinical trial, doctors were able to find additional tumors in 27% of patients who were given the injection.

During the procedure, the surgeon uses a “near-infrared light” to illuminate the cancer cells. The medication attaches to folate, a B vitamin that cancer cells use to fuel division.

“Those lesions light up like stars against a night sky,” Purdue University’s Presidential Scholar for Drug Discovery and the Ralph C. Corley Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, Philip Low, explained. Low invented Cytalux, which is the first tumor-targeted fluorescent agent that has been approved by the FDA to be used for ovarian cancer.

Purdue officials are now taking a look at expanding the theory behind the medication to detect lung cancer.

Cytalux will be used on adult patients who have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, according to the FDA.

The American Cancer Society predicts there will be 21,000 new cases of ovarian cancer and 13,000 deaths from the disease in 2021 in the U.S., according to the FDA. Normally it is treated surgically to remove as many of the tumors as possible and then with chemotherapy to stop the growth of cancer cells, among other targeted therapies.