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 but often deadly skin cancer that is typically caused by the Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCPyV). Polyomavirus T-antigen oncoproteins are persistently expressed in virus-positive MCCs (˜80% of cases), while remarkably high numbers of tumor-associated neoantigens are detected in virus-negative MCCs, suggesting that both MCC subsets may be immunogenic. Here we review mechanisms by which these immunogenic tumors evade multiple levels of host immunity. Additionally, we summarize the exciting potential of diverse immune-based approaches to treat MCC. In particular, agents blocking the PD-1 axis have yielded strikingly high response rates in MCC as compared with other solid tumors, highlighting the potential for immune-mediated treatment of this disease.