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3 Potential Game-Changing Cancer Drugs: Amgen, Inc. (AMGN), Merck & Co., Inc. (MRK), ZIOPHARM Oncology Inc. (ZIOP)

Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE:MRK) is currently awaiting a decision from the European Medicines Agency on vintafolide for treating ovarian cancer. The company licensed the drug from Endocyte, Inc. (NASDAQ:ECYT) in April 2012. Merck and Endocyte also have a phase 3 study under way for vintafolide.

Vintafolide works through a process known as folate targeting. This process takes advantage of the fact that some cancer cells are highly receptive to folic acid, also known as vitamin B9. Vintafolide combines a chemotherapy combined with vitamin B9. The cancer cells soak up the vitamin but also receive a nasty surprise with the cancer-killing chemotherapy. Folate targeting basically is like a pharmaceutical version of the fabled Greek Trojan horse.

Not every patient can benefit from vintafolide because some tumors don’t express folate receptors as much as others. To help identify those patients who are good candidates, Endocyte developed a companion diagnostic imaging agent called etarfolatide. This agent enables a non-invasive image of a patient’s full body to be evaluated to determine if vintafolide is a good fit.

While these prospective cancer treatments are intriguing, so are the companies behind them. Investors who are interested in stocks with high risk but potentially high rewards might want to check out Endocyte, Oncolytics Biotech, and ZIOPHARM Oncology Inc. (NASDAQ:ZIOP). For those who prefer growth with somewhat less risk, Amgen, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMGN) could be a good pick.

Dividend-oriented investors might be enticed by Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE:MRK), which currently sports an annual dividend yield of 4%. However, Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE:MRK) also faces challenges from loss of patent protection for several drugs and recently announced an executive shakeup. Even blue-chip stocks carry risk.

The good news is that multiple ways exist for investors to profit from these new cancer approaches. Even better news is that cancer patients could benefit from these new approaches in the foreseeable future if all goes well. Maybe, just maybe, with more innovative treatments like these, we’ll reach the day where cancer isn’t quite so scary.

The article 3 Potential Game-Changing Cancer Drugs originally appeared on and is written by Keith Speights..

Fool contributor Keith Speights has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned.

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