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FDA Approves Drug Developed By UC San Diego Researchers

— An injectable drug that was developed from scratch at UC San Diego has just been approved by the FDA. It's an imaging agent that will help doctors locate cancerous lymph nodes.

Aired 3/15/13 on KPBS News.

Beating 5,000 to 1 odds, UC San Diego researchers have just gotten a new injectable imaging drug approved by the FDA.

One of the ways to see if cancer has spread is to check the lymph nodes.

For years, doctors have had to inject cancer patients with blue dye to find out if a lymph node is harboring cancer. It's a painful injection, and it often doesn't work.

Clinical trials showed the new drug, Lymphoseek, was much more effective.

The drug was developed by two UC San Diego practioners: Dr. David Vera, professor of radiology, and Dr. Anne Wallace, director of plastic surgery.

"It's going to allow me to find the lymph node in the operating room that drains these cancers much faster, much more reliably, and the other thing with this agent is, it really doesn't cause any pain when you inject it," Wallace said.

The drug will be used with patients who have breast cancer or melanoma.

Only one out of every 5,000 new drugs actually make it to the market. Wallace said she's overwhelmed.

"It's actually kind of breathtaking, because I just wanted good science and something good for the patient," she explained. "And now, in the end, it's also going to be good for healthcare and everyone else. So, I haven't actually completely embraced the whole thing yet, that's it's come this far."

Wallace said she has no financial stake in the drug. It will be sold by Navidea Biopharmaceuticals.

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