Oppenheimer Shares Two Cents on Verastem (VSTM) Following Initiation of Phase I/II Duvelisib Study in Combination with Venetoclax

Yesterday, Verastem (VSTM) announced dosing of the first patient in a multicenter Phase I/II clinical trial at the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center of duvelisib in combination with venetoclax in patients with relapsed or refractory chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) or small lymphocytic lymphoma (SLL).

This trial will investigate venetoclax, an oral, potent, selective inhibitor of BCL-2 – a key mediator of the intrinsic pathway of apoptosis, the process of programmed cell death – given in combination with duvelisib. Preclinical data support this combination, as duvelisib has been shown to upregulate BCL-2 transcript and protein expression levels and enhance the ability of venetoclax to induce apoptosis in ex vivo human CLL cells.

The phase I primary objectives are to determine the maximum tolerated dose, as well as the recommended phase II dose of venetoclax for this combination regimen with duvelisib in patients with relapsed or refractory CLL/SLL. The phase II primary objective is to determine the rate of complete response (CR) of the combination, as defined by the International Workshop on Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (IWCLL) 2008 criteria.

Oppenheimer analyst Leah R. Cann commented, “If this phase I/II study can confirm that the combination of Duvelisib and venetoclax is well tolerated and improves the complete response rate over either agent alone, it could lead to the use of Duvelisib in earlier lines of treatment than currently being evaluated. While preclinical data support this combination, we are not adjusting our outlook at this time due to the timing and phase of this new study.”

Net net, Cann reiterates an Outperform rating on Verastem shares, with a price target of $16, which implies an upside of 78% from current levels. (To watch Cann’s track record, click here)

Verastem has one of the best ratings by the Street. TipRanks reveals that VSTO has a Strong Buy analyst consensus rating with 8 back-to-back buy ratings in the last three months. Meanwhile the average analyst price target of $14.38 suggests the stock still has upside potential of nearly 60% from the current share price for the next 12 months.

(See VSTM price targets and analyst ratings on TipRanks)

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