What happened

Shares of Inovio Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ:INO) were 13.3% higher as of 11:12 a.m. EDT on Tuesday. The clinical-stage biotech announced the publication of results in Clinical Cancer Research, a major cancer journal, from a study of MEDI0457. 

The data published in the journal focused on one patient in the study who experienced full remission from head and neck cancer after being treated by MEDI0457 followed by treatment with a PD-1 checkpoint inhibitor -- a type of cancer immunotherapy. This complete response by one patient has been sustained for more than two years.

Gloved hand holding beaker in front of scientist wearing safety glasses

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

Anytime a cancer patient goes into full remission and remains cancer-free for two years and counting, it's a very good thing. It's important to remember, though, that the results discussed in the cancer journal were for only one patient. There were 22 patients in the study.

Inovio CEO Joseph Kim said, "We are buoyed by the study as it lends support to all of our HPV and oncology programs." That statement is probably something of a stretch -- certainly if the focus is primarily on the one patient who went into remission.

However, Kim is right that the overall results from the study are good news for Inovio's development program. Twenty of the 22 patients in the study showed T cell activity, which does boost the idea that cancer vaccines such as MEDI0457 can enhance the effectiveness of checkpoint inhibitor immunotherapies. But Inovio had previously reported this immune data, so it really wasn't new information to generate excitement for investors.

Now what

Inovio licensed MEDI0457 a few years ago to AstraZeneca's MedImmune subsidiary. The more important product for the company right now is VGX-3100, another immunotherapy that is in phase 3 clinical testing. Results from this study should be available late next year.

The most important thing for investors to watch with Inovio is its cash position. At the end of June, the biotech had $95.6 million in cash, cash equivalents, and short-term investments. Although Inovio does receive some revenue as a result of its partnerships, it seems likely that the company will need to raise additional cash at some point in 2019. That could mean another stock offering -- and more dilution in the value of existing shares.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.