Why Incyte Shares Skyrocketed

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

What: Shares of Incyte (NASDAQ: INCY  ) , a biopharmaceutical company focused on developing therapies to treat oncology and inflammation-based diseases, skyrocketed as much as 32% after reporting top-line data from a proof-of-concept trial involving ruxolitinib for refractory metastatic pancreatic cancer.

So what: In its phase 2a trial, Incyte notes that ruxolitinib -- its oral JAK1 and JAK2 inhibitor that's currently approved to treat myelofibrosis under the trade name Jakafi -- when combined with Roche's Xeloda demonstrated a hazard ratio for overall survival in the intent to treat population of 0.79. In a pre-specified subgroup that was expected to benefit most from JAK pathway inhibition, the hazard ratio for overall survival was 0.47, with six-months survival at 42% for the ruxolitinib arm compared to just 11% for the placebo. Also, only patients in the ruxolitinib arm showed durable tumor response and significant improvement in body weight.

Now what: As you can tell by today's move higher, this is incredibly good early stage news for advanced metastatic pancreatic sufferers. Furthermore, it appears that Incyte has already honed in on which subgroups would benefit most by JAK pathway inhibition, meaning that a companion diagnostic test may be unnecessary. Jakafi delivered improved overall survivial in a phase 3 myelofibrosis trial, which lends hope that ruxolitinib to treat metastatic prostate cancer will do the same. With regard to Incyte, I'd love to see a pullback from today's pop but would certainly understand if it didn't.

Not to be forgotten in this as well is Novartis (NYSE: NVS  ) , which has full licensing rights to ruxolitinib outside the United States. If things continue to go well for ruxolitinib it'll mean less lost sleep at night for Novartis shareholders who are looking for new therapies to take the reins as patent expirations sweep through the pharmaceutical industry.

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