Why Synta Pharmaceuticals Corp. Shares Jumped

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 Synta Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: SNTA  ) , a clinical-stage developer of small-molecule drugs for use in treating cancer and chronic inflammatory diseases, jumped by as much as 14% after announcing favorable news for its lead cancer drug, ganetespib, and announcing its fourth-quarter earnings results.

So what: For the quarter, Synta delivered no revenue and a 34% wider net loss of $24.2 million, or $0.31 per share. By comparison, Wall Street was anticipating a slightly narrower loss of $0.30 per share. Synta did note that it ended the year with $91.5 million in cash, which should be sufficient to fund its operations throughout fiscal 2014.

The bigger news, though, was the announcement from Synta and QuantumLeap Healthcare Collaborative that ganetespib has been selected for the investigator-sponsored I-SPY 2 breast cancer trial. This will be a midstage study of women with recently diagnosed but locally advanced breast cancer that investigates whether or not adding investigational drugs like ganetespib to traditional chemotherapy is better than standard chemotherapy alone. Initially, ganetespib will only be available to HER2-negative disease patients, but could be expanded to all biomarkers once its safety is demonstrated.

Now what: Today's move is almost entirely about the excitement of having its drug chosen for an investigator-sponsored trial, which could give ganetespib a chance to really shine. Ganetespib is being tested in a number of indications, including nonsmall cell lung cancer, ovarian cancer, AML, rectal cancer, multiple myeloma, and so on, so its success is vital to the success of Synta shareholders. While I can certainly see why shareholders would be excited following today's news, they should also understand that this pipeline still has a ways to go before I'd consider it "investable." Chances are, with the rate Synta has been burning cash, it will need more cash by the second-half of 2014 to fund its research in 2015 which could mean a dilutive share offering. For now, I'm perfectly happy monitoring ganetespib's progress from the sidelines. 


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