NEW YORK (AP) — Shares of Ziopharm Oncology Inc. plunged in premarket trading Tuesday after the drug developer said its most advanced product, the potential cancer treatment palifosfamide, failed in a late-stage study.

The New York company also said it would immediately switch its strategic focus to synthetic biology programs and start a restructuring program to muster resources for that.

Ziopharm has no products on the market, and its shares shed more than half their value, falling $3.21 to $1.92 before markets opened Tuesday, after the company announced the study result.

Ziopharm shares rose as high as $5.95 earlier this month, capping a weeks-long rally after the drug developer said it would proceed with data analysis from the palifosfamide trial. Palifosfamide was being studied as a treatment for patients with soft tissue sarcoma, which is a cancer that forms in connective tissue.

The company said Tuesday that the drug missed its main goal of improvement in progression-free survival, which measures the time before a disease progresses or the patient in the study dies. It said full data from the study will be submitted for scientific journal publication.

Ziopharm will continue to study the drug in mid-stage trials as possible a possible treatment for forms of lung, testicular and ovarian cancers.

The company said it is developing its synthetic biology programs with Intrexon Corp., and the lead candidate, labeled Ad-RTS IL-12, is in mid-stage testing as a possible treatment for advanced melanoma and breast cancer. It helps enable the controlled delivery of a protein important for immune response to cancer.


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