FDA Approves New Imaging Drug to Help Identify Ovarian Cancer Lesions

Stock image of serous carcinoma, the most malignant form of ovarian cancer.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today approved Cytalux (pafolacianine), an imaging drug intended to assist surgeons in identifying ovarian cancer lesions. The drug is designed to improve the ability to locate additional ovarian cancerous tissue that is normally difficult to detect during surgery.

Cytalux is indicated for use in adult patients with ovarian cancer to help identify cancerous lesions during surgery. The drug is a diagnostic agent that is administered in the form of an intravenous injection prior to surgery.

“The FDA’s approval of Cytalux can help enhance the ability of surgeons to identify deadly ovarian tumors that may otherwise go undetected,” said Alex Gorovets, M.D., deputy director of the Office of Specialty Medicine in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “By supplementing current methods of detecting ovarian cancer during surgery, Cytalux offers health care professionals an additional imaging approach for patients with ovarian cancer.”

The American Cancer Society estimates there will be more than 21,000 new cases of ovarian cancer and more than 13,000 deaths from this disease in 2021, making it the deadliest of all female reproductive system cancers. Conventional treatment for ovarian cancer includes surgery to remove as many of the tumors as possible, chemotherapy to stop the growth of malignant cells or other targeted therapy to identify and attack specific cancer cells.

Ovarian cancer often causes the body to overproduce a specific protein in cell membranes called a folate receptor. Following administration via injection, Cytalux binds to these proteins and illuminates under fluorescent light, boosting surgeons’ ability to identify the cancerous tissue. Currently, surgeons rely on preoperative imaging, visual inspection of tumors under normal light or examination by touch to identify cancer lesions. Cytalux is used with a Near-Infrared fluorescence imaging system cleared by the FDA for specific use with pafolacianine.

The safety and effectiveness of Cytalux was evaluated in a randomized, multi-center, open-label study of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer or with high clinical suspicion of ovarian cancer who were scheduled to undergo surgery. Of the 134 women (ages 33 to 81 years) who received a dose of Cytalux and were evaluated under both normal and fluorescent light during surgery, 26.9% had at least one cancerous lesion detected that was not observed by standard visual or tactile inspection.

The most common side effects of Cytalux were infusion-related reactions, including nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, flushing, dyspepsia, chest discomfort, itching and hypersensitivity. Cytalux may cause fetal harm when administered to a pregnant woman. The use of folate, folic acid, or folate-containing supplements should be avoided within 48 hours before administration of Cytalux. There is a risk of image interpretation errors with the use of Cytalux to detect ovarian cancer during surgery, including false negatives and false positives.

The FDA previously granted Cytalux orphan-drug, priority and fast track designations.

The FDA granted the approval to On Target Laboratories, LLC.

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