What happened

Shares of Iovance Biotherapeutics (NASDAQ:IOVA) were soaring 12.5% higher as of 11:27 a.m. EST on Friday. The nice jump came after the biotech announced updated data from a phase 2 clinical study evaluating lifileucel in treating metastatic melanoma. These results, presented at the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC) annual meeting, included findings that patients receiving lifileucel in the second cohort of the study experienced an objective response rate (ORR) of 35% and that the median duration of response was not reached after 11.3 months into the study.

So what

You can look at Iovance's latest news in two ways. If you're the kind of person who sees a glass of water as half full, the updated phase 2 results should make you more optimistic than ever about the prospects for lifileucel. The experimental drug is one of two pipeline candidates that Iovance is evaluating in pivotal studies. Anything that could potentially improve the likelihood of eventual FDA approval for either of these drugs is very good for Iovance.

Scientists in a lab.

Image source: Getty Images.

What if you're the kind of person who sees the glass as half empty? You'll probably focus on the fact that the latest results were only preliminary and only for one cohort in the phase 2 study. It's not out of the question at all for a drug to have some promising preliminary results only to stumble later.

In reality, both perspectives are good ones. It makes sense that Iovance shares would jump on today's announcement. The updated results truly are positive. It also makes sense that many investors would remain cautious about banking too heavily on early results for an unproven drug.

Now what

Iovance CEO Maria Fardis said that the company plans to continue enrolling patients in the pivotal cohort of the phase 2 study of lifileucel. She added that data from this cohort should be the basis for Iovance's anticipated FDA filing for approval of the drug late next year.

Investing in biotech stocks, especially clinical-stage biotechs like Iovance, comes with plenty of excitement. But that excitement can sometimes be short-lived. The potential for lifileucel in treating metastatic melanoma is promising, but there's still a long way to go.