MCV and Merkel cell carcinoma: a molecular success story

Curr Opin Virol. 2012 Aug;2(4):489-98. doi: 10.1016/j.coviro.2012.05.007. Epub 2012 Jun 17.


Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCV), discovered in 2008, is clonally integrated in ~80% Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC). MCV is a common skin flora and initiates cancer in susceptible hosts only after it acquires a precise set of mutations that render it replication incompetent. Both MCV large and small T proteins promote cancer cell survival and proliferation. Large T targets pocket proteins regulating cell cycle transit while small T activates cap-dependent translation critical for cancer cell growth. These findings already have led to new diagnostics and clinical trials to target MCV-induced survivin and to promote antitumor immunity. In four years, the cause, diagnosis and therapy for an intractable cancer has been changed due to the molecular discovery of MCV.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carcinoma, Merkel Cell / immunology
  • Carcinoma, Merkel Cell / virology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Viral
  • Genome, Viral
  • Humans
  • Merkel cell polyomavirus / genetics*
  • Merkel cell polyomavirus / physiology
  • Oncogene Proteins, Viral / genetics
  • Oncogene Proteins, Viral / metabolism
  • Polyomavirus Infections / immunology
  • Polyomavirus Infections / virology*
  • Tumor Virus Infections / immunology
  • Tumor Virus Infections / virology*


  • Oncogene Proteins, Viral