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Why Peregrine Pharmaceuticals Inc. Shares Skyrocketed

By Sean Williams - Mar 5, 2014 at 2:43PM

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Peregrine shares soared after announcing plans for an upcoming data presentation. Should investors cash in their chips or prepare for an even bigger run higher?

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

What: Shares of Peregrine Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: PPHM), a developer of monoclonal antibodies used to treat cancer, vaulted higher by as much as 30% after announcing that it would have three data presentations at two upcoming Keystone Symposia conferences held between March 9 and March 13.

So what: According to Peregrine's press release, it will be presenting data on three preclinical studies that highlight its immuno-oncology technology, which is aimed at training the body's immune system to recognize and attack cancer cells. The data presentations will revolve around Peregrine's phosphatidylserine-targeting antibodies. Phosphatidylserine (PS) is an immunosuppressive agent often found on the inside of healthy cells, but on the outside of cancer cells, allowing them to go undetected by the body's immune system. Peregrine's immunotherapy aims at suppressing this effect, allowing the body's immune system to recognize and eliminate these cancer cells.

Now what: Today's move could be a bit excessive considering that we're merely talking about a preclinical data presentation, but there's little denying that there's a ton of potential in Peregrine's immuno-oncology vaccine bavituximab, which also targets PS, and is currently in late-stage studies as a potential treatment for second-line non-small-cell lung cancer. Its midstage study produced a better than doubling in median overall survival to 12.1 months relative to the placebo, but its study was not without its own set of controversy. If Peregrine's phase 3 results deliver similarly impressive overall survival improvement, the company's immunotherapy solution could have explosive growth potential. Of course, investors should still keep in mind that small-cap biotechs have a very poor track record when it comes to cancer-drug success when considering Peregrine as an investment.

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