Virtua Health is first in South Jersey to use Cytalux, groundbreaking drug that helps identify lung cancer cells

Virtua Health is the first provider in South Jersey to offer Cytalux, an innovative drug that “lights up” lung cancer cells, enabling surgeons to better see and remove malignant tumors during surgery, the health system said.

Dr. Matthew Puc, program director at the Penn Medicine/Virtua Health Cancer Program in Marlton, said Cytalux is a groundbreaking product.

“It will help us operate more accurately and provide better cancer care,” he said.

Cytalux is administered by IV in as little as one hour before surgery. The drug binds to lung cancer cells and lights up when viewed through a special surgical camera.

Cytalux helps surgeons see the edges of the tumor, enhancing their ability to remove all of the cancer and preserve as much healthy tissue as possible. The drug also helps surgeons find second tumors that were not visible on imaging scans.

In a clinical trial, Cytalux helped surgeons find a lung cancer lesion that could not be found with standard approaches in 19% of patients. Additionally, in 8% of patients, Cytalux identified a second cancerous lesion that was missed by preoperative imaging.

“Without Cytalux, those tumors would not have been visible,” Puc said.

He noted that up to 55% of people who undergo surgery to eliminate their lung cancer have a recurrence. Cytalux can potentially reduce such recurrences and increase survival rates by helping surgeons find and fully remove more cancers, he said.

“It gives us a better sense of where the tumor begins and ends,” he said.

The help is needed.

With nearly 240,000 new diagnoses and 130,000 deaths from the disease in the U.S. each year, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the country. In New Jersey, more than 5,000 people are diagnosed with lung cancer annually, the CDC estimates.

“At Virtua Health, we’re committed to bringing the most advanced cancer care to our patients,” Puc said. “We’re thrilled to bring this leading-edge technology to the people of South Jersey.”