Our team based in Seattle conducted a comprehensive review including evolving trends in the management of Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC). This summary covers key decision points, including recommended work-up during initial diagnosis, treatment options for MCC when it’s in one place or has spread, management of recurrent MCC, and new treatments that are showing promise with fewer side effects and good results. This review gives valuable information on how to handle MCC overall and emphasizes new methods that are effective and less toxic on patients.
Resistance to DNA-damaging chemotherapy is a barrier to effective treatment that appears to be augmented by p53 functional deficiency in many cancers. In p53-deficient cells in which the G1-S checkpoint is compromised, cell viability after DNA damage relies upon intact intra-S and G2-M checkpoints mediated by the ATR (ataxia telangiectasia and Rad3 related) and Chk1 kinases. Thus, a logical rationale to sensitize p53-deficient cancers to DNA-damaging chemotherapy is through the use of ATP-competitive inhibitors of ATR or Chk1. To discover small molecules that may act on uncharacterized components of the ATR pathway, we performed a phenotype-based screen of 9,195 compounds for their ability to inhibit hydroxyurea-induced phosphorylation of Ser345 on Chk1, known to be a critical ATR substrate. This effort led to the identification of four small-molecule compounds, three of which were derived from known bioactive library (anthothecol, dihydrocelastryl, and erysolin) and one of which was a novel synthetic compound termed MARPIN. These compounds all inhibited ATR-selective phosphorylation and sensitized p53-deficient cancer cells to DNA-damaging agents in vitro and in vivo. Notably, these compounds did not inhibit ATR catalytic activity in vitro, unlike typical ATP-competitive inhibitors, but acted in a mechanistically distinct manner to disable ATR-Chk1 function. Our results highlight a set of novel molecular probes to further elucidate druggable mechanisms to improve cancer therapeutic responses produced by DNA-damaging drugs.