Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is a highly aggressive neuroendocrine carcinoma of the skin. More than one-third of MCC patients will die from this cancer, making it twice as lethal as malignant melanoma. Despite the fact that MCC is still a very rare tumor, its incidence is rapidly increasing; the American Cancer Society estimates for 2008 almost 1,500 new cases in the USA. These clinical observations are especially disturbing as the pathogenesis of MCC is not yet fully understood; however, a number of recent reports contribute to a better understanding of its pathogenesis. Here we describe findings regarding the role of Wnt, MAPK and Akt signaling as well as possible aberrations in the p14ARF/p53/RB tumor suppressor network in MCC. Most important, and possibly with high impact on future therapeutic approaches is the demonstration that a polyomavirus has frequently integrated in the genome of the MCC cells prior to tumor development.