Ziopharm Drug Stymies Lethal Tumors 77% Longer Than Standard Treatment

Ziopharm Oncology Inc. rose the most in six months in Nasdaq trading after reporting that its experimental cancer drug helped keep fast-growing lethal tumors in check longer than a standard treatment.

Ziopharm climbed 50 cents, or 9.7 percent, to $5.64 at 4 p.m. New York time on the Nasdaq Stock Market, the largest single-day gain since Nov. 6, 2009, when the company announced positive interim results.

The tumors, known as soft tissue sarcomas, are a type of a cancer that develops in body fat, muscle or other tissue. Ziopharm’s palifosfamide combined with doxorubicin, a standard therapy, increased to 7.8 months the time patients lived without seeing their cancer worsen, from 4.4 months with doxorubicin alone, the company reported yesterday. Results from the study will be presented at a meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology next month.

“We view these data as very strong, and as continuing to add to our confidence in the activity of palifosfamide,” Simos Simeonidis, an analyst at Rodman & Renshaw Inc. in New York, wrote in a note to investors today.

Each year, about 10,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with soft tissue sarcoma, and half don’t survive five years, according to the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland. If palifosfamide makes it to market, the drug will be the first new medication approved for this illness in the U.S. in 20 years, said Jonathan Lewis, New York-based Ziopharm’s chief executive officer, in an interview.

Most Advanced Product

Ziopharm has no marketed products and three drugs in testing. Palifosfamide, its most advanced experimental drug, is a variation on ifosfamide, a type of chemotherapy. While ifosfamide, sold by Deerfield, Illinois-based Baxter International Inc. under the name Ifex, works in sarcoma, the drug has potentially fatal side effects, including brain toxicity and bleeding in the bladder.

“The old treatments for sarcoma are really toxic and hard to give,” said David D’Adamo, a sarcoma specialist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. If palifosfamide improves on that, it’s “a huge step forward,” he said.

The American Society of Clinical Oncology, based in Alexandria, Virginia, released 4,500 abstracts yesterday in advance of the organization’s conference in Chicago, which begins June 4. The Ziopharm trial included 62 adult patients with soft-tissue tumor types that were inoperable.

The U.S. sales potential of palifosfamide in soft tissue sarcoma is about $250 million a year, according to Lewis. Two other drugs are in late-stage testing for sarcoma: Votrient, from London-based GlaxoSmithKline Plc, and ridaforolimus, from Whitehouse Station, New Jersey-based Merck & Co. and Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Ariad Pharmaceuticals Inc. Both work by inhibiting angiogenesis -- the formation of new cancer-feeding blood vessels -- preventing tumors from expanding.

To contact the reporters on this story: Ellen Gibson in New York at egibson9@bloomberg.net;

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