Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is a highly aggressive, often lethal neuroendocrine cancer. Its carcinogenesis may be either caused by the clonal integration of the Merkel cell polyomavirus into the host genome or by UV-induced mutations. Notably, virally-encoded oncoproteins and UV-induced mutations affect comparable signaling pathways such as RB restriction of cell cycle progression or p53 inactivation. Despite its low incidence, MCC recently received much attention based on its exquisite immunogenicity and the resulting major success of immune modulating therapies. Here, we summarize current knowledge on epidemiology, biology and therapy of MCC as conclusion of the project 'Immune Modulating strategies for treatment of Merkel Cell Carcinoma', which was funded over a 5-year period by the European Commission to investigate innovative immunotherapies for MCC.
Keywords: Cell of origin; Epidemiology; IMMOMEC; Immunotherapy; Merkel cell carcinoma; Merkel cell polyomavirus.