Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is a rare skin cancer caused by Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCPyV) infection and/or ultraviolet radiation-induced somatic mutations. The presence of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes is evidence that an active immune response to MCPyV and tumor-associated neoantigens occurs in some patients. However, inhibitory immune molecules, including programmed death-1 (PD-1) and programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-L1), within the MCC tumor microenvironment aid in tumor evasion of T-cell-mediated clearance. Unlike chemotherapy, treatment with anti-PD-L1 (avelumab) or anti-PD-1 (pembrolizumab) antibodies leads to durable responses in MCC, in both virus-positive and virus-negative tumors. As many tumors are established through the evasion of infiltrating immune-cell clearance, the lessons learned in MCC may be broadly relevant to many cancers.
Merkel cell carcinoma can be indolent: A case with 7 locoregional recurrences over 15 years highlights the importance of patient-tailored management
Patients who experience a recurrence of their Merkel cell carcinoma are often treated aggressively. We report a case of a man with an unusually long course of MCC over 15 years who had his MCC recur around his face or neck 7 times before eventually developing distant spread. Because he had 4 major medical problems at the time his MCC initially appeared, less aggressive therapies were chosen for his recurrences, and there was no evidence of disease for the vast majority of his 15-year course, during which he enjoyed excellent quality of life. This case emphasizes the importance of customizing care in MCC to give patients the best quality and quantity of life possible in their particular situation.