What happened

Shares of Iovance Biotherapeutics (NASDAQ:IOVA) jumped nearly 40% today after Bloomberg reported that the company has held early discussions with potential buyers. The report also cautioned that the cellular therapy developer could bail out of discussions and remain an independent company. 

Many large companies have expressed interest in acquiring promising assets in genetic medicines, cellular therapies, and gene therapy manufacturing. Many already have made such acquisitions. Considering Iovance Biotherapeutics has solid data in hand for two drug candidates and is only valued at $4 billion with today's pop, the Bloomberg report isn't surprising. 

As of 3:24 p.m. EST on Tuesday, the pharma stock had settled to a 26.6% gain.

An arrow bouncing up shelves on a wall.

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

Iovance has demonstrated impressive results in mid-stage trials for two of its tumor infiltrating lymphocyte (TIL) therapies. 

In a phase 2 trial, the lead drug candidate lifileucel achieved an objective response rate of 36% in 66 individuals with advanced melanoma. Objective response rate measures the number of individuals who achieve tumor shrinkage after treatment. The median duration of response had not been reached at 11.3 months. Both metrics are impressive considering metastatic melanoma is one of the deadliest cancers.

And in a separate phase 2 study, an experimental asset named LN-145 achieved an overall response rate of 44.4% in 27 evaluable patients with cervical cancer. Treatments on the market today have achieved overall response rates of 4% to 14%. 

Both experimental assets are widely expected to earn marketing approval in the next year or two. 

Now what

The field of cellular immunotherapy holds tremendous promise and could lead to significantly improved outcomes for patients. Iovance Biotherapeutics is one of the few companies today with evidence that its approach works in real patients, which could make it an attractive takeover target. Investors shouldn't necessarily count on a sale or get too carried away with speculation, but the long-term potential of the company remains intact even if a deal falls through.

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.