Moving past chemotherapy, radiation and surgery

New directions in cancer care

Cancer is a complex disease or rather, a collection of many types of diseases, but cancer itself has a simple definition. Cancer is a malignant or invasive growth that occurs when cells divide and grow uncontrollably, and these cells invade other areas of the body.

Despite billions of dollars in research in government labs, academic medical centers and biopharmaceutical companies, current treatment options remain mostly limited to surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, all of which come with challenging side effects and limited therapeutic efficacy. Recently, a fourth approach in immunotherapy has emerged to leverage or manipulate a patient’s own immune system to fight cancer. Ziopharm is committed to advancing this fourth option with our immunotherapy platforms.

Solid tumors

Approximately 90 percent of new cancer diagnoses are solid tumors, which occur when uncontrollably growing cancer cells cluster together and form a lump or mass. These cancers often are named for the body part in or on which these tumors are formed, such as breast, prostate or colon cancer.

Ziopharm is advancing a novel approach to fight solid tumors. Under a research and development agreement with the National Cancer Institute to advance Sleeping Beauty in the fight against solid tumors, we are bioengineering T-cell receptors, or TCRs, that will target so-called neoantigens which are specific to an individual patient’s cancer. Neoantigens are the very mutations that cause cells to become cancerous. We believe neoantigens will become the Achilles’ heel of cancer with this truly personalized approach.

Brain cancer: Glioblastoma

Glioblastoma is an aggressive primary brain tumor that affects approximately 74,000 people worldwide each year with an estimated 12,390 new adult cases predicted in the United States for 2017, according to the American Brain Tumor Association. Newly diagnosed patients often undergo surgery to remove as much of the tumor as possible, as well as chemotherapy and radiation.

Nearly 90 percent of patients who undergo first-line treatment see their brain cancer return. For patients who have experienced multiple recurrences, the prognosis is poor, with a median overall survival (mOS) of 6-7 months, while overall survival in patients who have failed temozolomide and bevacizumab, or equivalent salvage chemotherapy, is approximately 3 to 5 months. We are currently studying our Controlled IL-12 platform as a treatment for glioblastoma both as a monotherapy, as well as in combination with immune checkpoint inhibitors.

Pediatric brain cancer

Brain cancer rarely affects children, with a prevalence of approximately 4.84 per 100,000 children each year, according to the National Cancer Institute. In most pediatric cases, the tumors occur in the cortex (cerebrum), and these patients have the same treatment options as adults (chemotherapy, radiation and surgery). Ziopharm is exploring our Controlled IL-12 platform to treat pediatric patients with brain cancer in the cortex region of the brain in a clinical trial.

Blood cancer

Blood cancers affect bone marrow, blood cells and the lymphatic system. Ziopharm is studying our Sleeping Beauty modified T cells and their potential to treat patient with certain blood cancers like non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL), chronic lymphoblastic leukemia (CLL), acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and acute myeloid leukemia (AML).