(Bloomberg) -- Cancer drugmaker Iovance Biotherapeutics Inc. is exploring a sale and has held preliminary talks with potential buyers, according to people familiar with the matter.

The San Carlos, California-based company is working with a financial adviser after receiving takeover interest, said one of the people, who asked to not be identified because the matter isn’t public. No final decision has been made and Iovance could opt to remain independent, they said.

Iovance’s shares rose almost 11% before being halted for volatility at 1:17 p.m. in New York, giving the company a market value of about $3.5 billion. The stock is up about 160% in the past year.

A representative for Iovance declined to comment.

Iovance specializes in cell therapy focused on treating solid tumors, according to its website. It was previously known as Lion Biotechnologies until 2017.

It comes to market amid a steady spate of takeovers in the biotechnology space, as drugmakers seek to expand and diversify through acquisitions. Merck & Co. acquired ArQule Inc. for $2.4 billion last month while Sanofi closed a $2.1 billion deal for Synthorx Inc.

(Updates share price in third paragraph)

To contact the reporters on this story: Ed Hammond in New York at ehammond12@bloomberg.net;Nabila Ahmed in New York at nahmed54@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Liana Baker at lbaker75@bloomberg.net, Matthew Monks, Michael Hytha

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.