Tuesday continued the positive momentum for stocks, with favorable economic data playing a key role. The latest retail sales data showed that businesses are recovering from the worst of the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. Although retail businesses still have far to go before they can get back to pre-coronavirus levels, investors like the trends they're seeing. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI), S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC), and Nasdaq Composite (NASDAQINDEX:^IXIC) put in gains of around 2% on the day.

Today's stock market


Percentage Change

Point Change




S&P 500



Nasdaq Composite



Data source: Yahoo! Finance.

There's been a lot of action in the pharmaceutical industry lately because many investors are watching closely to see whether companies can come up with a viable vaccine or treatment options for COVID-19. However, today's move in Eli Lilly (NYSE:LLY) showed that shareholders are still paying attention to events, even when they have nothing to do with the coronavirus.

A big boom for Eli Lilly

Shares of Eli Lilly finished the day up nearly 16%. The latest news concerned a promising cancer treatment that could have even greater application in patients than previously thought.

Person wearing blue gloves holding a pill, with dozens of other pills on a glass table.

Image source: Getty Images.

Lilly reported positive clinical trial results from phase 3 trials of enzyme inhibitor Verzenio. The drug has already proven effective in patients that have metastatic or advanced breast cancer, but the company has looked to see if Verzenio can be helpful in patients that have earlier stages of breast cancer. The trial showed that using the drug in combination with other treatments reduced the risk of death or recurrence of the disease, achieving its primary endpoint.

Medical professionals are hopeful that the trial could be a game changer in treating breast cancer, which is one of the most common forms of the disease in the world. Being able to use Verzenio earlier among a broader group of patients could move things further down the path toward finding a complete treatment for the disease.

What else is Lilly up to?

That said, Lilly isn't entirely uninvolved in the coronavirus race. The pharmaceutical giant has been working hard to look for treatments for COVID-19 that could help put an end to the current crisis.

Just earlier this week, Lilly talked about its recently started phase 3 trial of Olumiant in treating COVID-19. The company hopes to reduce the number of coronavirus patients who die or need mechanical ventilation treatment as a result of the disease. Some other earlier-stage trials are looking at different treatments, with the goal of trying to battle COVID-19 from several different angles.

Dozens of pharmaceutical companies are vying for position in the race to find ways to treat or prevent COVID-19. Although it's well-positioned with its candidates, Lilly can't count on being the eventual winner. That's what makes news on the breast cancer front that much more important right now, because favorable prospects could make it a front-runner in helping millions of patients across the globe.

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.