What: Amid rising optimism for next-generation cancer therapies and ahead of fourth-quarter financial results that included a bullish drug development timeline, shares in Juno Therapeutics (NASDAQ:JUNO) surged 29.2% last month, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence.
So what: A presentation made at the American Association for the Advancement of Science on chimeric antigen receptor T-cell (CAR-T) cancer therapies ability to successfully treat blood cancer sparked renewed enthusiasm in Juno Therapeutics, a front-runner in CAR-T development.
Specifically, data was presented showing a 94% remission rate in patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) who received CAR-T therapy, an approach involving the reengineering of the immune system to better find and destroy cancer cells. The study was conducted by the Seattle's Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and funded by Juno Therapeutics.
The positive efficacy helps build momentum for the company, which reported fourth-quarter and full-year results on Feb. 29. Those results included spending that burned through $148 million in cash last year, but the company exited the year with $1.22 billion remaining on the books, giving it plenty of financial flexibility.
If so, Juno Therapeutics could become the first company that's able to market a CAR-T therapy to doctors, and given JCAR015's success in earlier trials, a first-mover advantage could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars in sales to the company.
Now what: Juno Therapeutics' earnings report included a timeline for the development of JCAR015, it's ALL treatment, which suggests that if JCAR015's ongoing phase 2 trial succeeds, an accelerated FDA approval could happen as soon as 2017.
However, investors should remember that Juno Therapeutics doesn't have any drugs on the market yet, and there's no guarantee that JCAR015, or any of the other drugs in its pipeline, will pan out. Historically, over 90% of cancer drugs have fallen short in clinical trials, and because of that, Juno Therapeutics is far from a risk-free investment.