Landscape of current and future therapies of Merkel cell carcinoma

Dermatol Ther. 2020 May;33(3):e13281. doi: 10.1111/dth.13281. Epub 2020 Feb 28.


Merkel cell carcinoma is rare and aggressive skin cancer, which occurrence is linked to exposure to ultraviolet light and the Merkel-cell polyomavirus. In recent years, significant progress in understanding the mechanism of Merkel cell carcinoma pathogenesis has been observed. This neoplasm often expresses PD-L1, and MCPyV-specific T cells can express PD-1 thus PD-1/PD-L1 checkpoint therapies seem to be remarkably interesting treatment options. Many clinical trials are currently being conducted to confirm their effectiveness and safety for this group of patients. However, only about half of advanced Merkel cell carcinoma patients could achieve remission or disease stabilization through PD-1/PD-L1 checkpoint therapies thus innovative treatments are still needed. In this article, we have presented current and future directions in the development of Merkel cell carcinoma therapy.

Keywords: PD-1 inhibitors; skin malignancy; treatment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Merkel Cell* / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Merkel cell polyomavirus*
  • Skin
  • Skin Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Ultraviolet Rays