Track the companies that matter to you. It's FREE! Click one of these fan favorites to get started: Apple; Google; Ford.



A Silver Lining in a Sea of Red

Watch stocks you care about

The single, easiest way to keep track of all the stocks that matter...

Your own personalized stock watchlist!

It's a 100% FREE Motley Fool service...

Click Here Now

Kudos to ZIOPHARM Oncology (NASDAQ: ZIOP  ) .

Shares were cut by two-thirds today after announcing that its cancer drug palifosfamide failed to show a strong enough effect in a phase 3 trial in metastatic soft tissue sarcoma.

That's bad, really bad, but at least the company isn't twisting the knife it just got stabbed with.

The primary endpoint of the study was progression-free survival -- essentially how long it takes before the tumor starts growing again or the patient dies, whichever comes first. The control arm that received just doxorubicin had a progression-free survival of 5.2 months. Palifosfamide combined with doxorubicin improved progression-free survival by approximately a month, but that wasn't statistically significant.

The Independent Data Monitoring Committee recommended the trial continue to follow patients for overall survival, but the company said it doesn't plan to continue the trial. That's the silver lining.

The committee is made up of scientists that tend to be curious by nature. But they're not the ones footing the bill. There's a very small chance that a drug wouldn't show progression-free survival but would increase overall survival. Some drugs stop tumor growth but don't help patients live longer, but you hardly ever see it happen the other way.

And even if palifosfamide were to improve overall survival, the trial couldn't be used to support an approval. Overall survival was a secondary endpoint that, by definition, is only valid if the primary endpoint is met. At best, continuing the trial would give ZIOPHARM a reason to run another trial with overall survival as a primary endpoint, but that's a long-shot bet that the company is rightfully not willing to take.

Palifosfamide was always facing an uphill battle in soft tissue sarcoma, a difficult to treat cancer. ARIAD Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ARIA  ) and Merck's (NYSE: MRK  ) ridaforolimus was turned down by U.S. and EU regulators last year after posting less-than-stellar data. Like ridaforolimus, palifosfamide might still work in other cancers. Both drugs are being tested in lung cancer and ridaforolimus is being tested in other solid tumors as well.

Investors in Threshold Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: THLD  ) should take note; its cancer drug TH-302 is also being tested in soft tissue sarcoma. Palifosfamide's failure means less competition, but it's also a reminder of the riskiness of developing drugs for the hard-to-treat cancer. Fortunately, like ZIOPHARM and ARIAD, Threshold isn't putting all its eggs in the sarcoma basket and is testing TH-302 on a variety of tumor types.

Another biotech with data coming
Will MannKind's disruptive technology revolutionize the way diabetes is treated around the world -- or will the FDA put the kibosh on this product before it even hits the market? In a new premium research report on MannKind, these complex issues are made crystal clear, in addition to showing you why to buy or sell the stock today. To find out more click here to grab your copy today.

Read/Post Comments (0) | Recommend This Article (2)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

Be the first one to comment on this article.

Compare Brokers

Fool Disclosure

Sponsored Links

Leaked: Apple's Next Smart Device
(Warning, it may shock you)
The secret is out... experts are predicting 458 million of these types of devices will be sold per year. 1 hyper-growth company stands to rake in maximum profit - and it's NOT Apple. Show me Apple's new smart gizmo!

DocumentId: 2332713, ~/Articles/ArticleHandler.aspx, 9/29/2016 11:24:37 AM

Report This Comment

Use this area to report a comment that you believe is in violation of the community guidelines. Our team will review the entry and take any appropriate action.

Sending report...

Today's Market

updated Moments ago Sponsored by:
DOW 18,296.61 -42.63 -0.23%
S&P 500 2,164.81 -6.56 -0.30%
NASD 5,297.19 -21.36 -0.40%

Create My Watchlist

Go to My Watchlist

You don't seem to be following any stocks yet!

Better investing starts with a watchlist. Now you can create a personalized watchlist and get immediate access to the personalized information you need to make successful investing decisions.

Data delayed up to 5 minutes

Related Tickers

9/29/2016 11:09 AM
ZIOP $5.71 Down -0.20 -3.38%
ZIOPHARM Oncology CAPS Rating: **
ARIA $13.95 Down -0.19 -1.34%
Ariad Pharmaceutic… CAPS Rating: **
MRK $62.18 Down -1.13 -1.78%
Merck and Co. CAPS Rating: ****
THLD $1.17 Down -0.01 -0.92%
Threshold Pharmace… CAPS Rating: **