Molecular and immune targets for Merkel cell carcinoma therapy and prevention

Mol Carcinog. 2019 Sep;58(9):1602-1611. doi: 10.1002/mc.23042. Epub 2019 May 22.


Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is a rare neuroendocrine carcinoma of the skin, for which the exact mechanisms of carcinogenesis remain unknown. Therapeutic options for this highly aggressive malignancy have historically been limited in both their initial response and response durability. Recent improvements in our understanding of MCC tumor biology have expanded therapeutic options for these patients, namely through the use of immunotherapies such as immune checkpoint inhibitors. Further elucidation of the tumor mutational landscape has identified molecular targets for therapies, which have demonstrated success in other cancer types. In this review, we discuss both current and investigational immune and molecular targets of therapy for MCC.

Keywords: Merkel cell carcinoma; immunotherapy; molecular therapy; targeted therapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Carcinogenesis / drug effects
  • Carcinogenesis / immunology
  • Carcinoma, Merkel Cell / immunology*
  • Carcinoma, Merkel Cell / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy / methods
  • Mutation / drug effects
  • Mutation / immunology
  • Skin Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Skin Neoplasms / therapy*


  • Antineoplastic Agents