What happened

Shares of Verastem Oncology (NASDAQ:VSTM), a biotechnology company developing new cancer drugs, are on the rise again after the company announced an upcoming conference call. Investors excited to hear what management will have to say about an investigator-initiated study (i.e., one not controlled by the drug company) with a pair of Verastem's new drug candidates have driven the stock 20% higher as of 1:10 p.m. EDT on Monday.

So what 

On Monday, April 27, Verastem will present details from an investigator-initiated clinical trial involving two of its experimental cancer drugs candidates, VS-6766, and defactinib. The latter is a FAK inhibitor that flopped in an early stage trial with mesothelioma patients about five years ago, and VS-6766 is a more recently discovered RAF/MEK inhibitor aimed at KRAS-mutated tumors.

Upward sloping chart.

Image source: Getty Images.

Tumors driven by KRAS mutations are particularly aggressive, but there aren't any effective treatments that target this well-understood oncogene.

Now what

Verastem isn't the only biotech developing therapies for KRAS-mutated tumors. For example, Amgen (NASDAQ:AMGN) is developing a KRAS inhibitor called AMG 510, and it's already shown compelling results in an early stage clinical trial. If Verastem's candidate can produce data competitive with Amgen's, the stock could soar again.

Verastem will present results from several clinical-stage programs at this year's virtual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, but the stock's price will hinge on results from the investigator-initiated trial with VS-6766 and defactinib. 

Before getting too excited about an early look at VS-6766, it's important to remember that Verastem acquired rights to the drug from Chugai Pharmaceutical (OTC:CHGCY) for just $3 million up front and a promise to pay royalties if necessary. It's possible that the Japanese pharmaceutical company let go of a potential blockbuster cancer therapy for such a meager sum, but not likely.

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