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.
Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is a rare skin malignancy that is a paradigm cancer for solid tumor immunotherapy. MCCs associated with Merkel cell polyomavirus (virus-positive MCC [VP-MCC]) or chronic UV exposure (virus-negative MCC [VN-MCC]) are anti-PD(L)1 responsive, despite VP-MCC’s low mutational burden. This suggests that antigen quality, not merely mutation quantity, dictates immunotherapy responsiveness, and cell-based therapies targeting optimal antigens may be effective. Despite VP-MCC’s antigenic homogeneity, diverse T-cell infiltration patterns are observed, implying microenvironment plasticity and multifactorial contributions to immune recognition. Moreover, VP-MCC exemplifies how antitumor adaptive immunity can provide tumor burden biomarkers for early detection and disease monitoring.