Seattle Multidisciplinary MCC TeamUniversity of Washington MCC ResearchFred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center Seattle Cancer Care Alliance/Skin Cancer

News Items that are especially relevant to patients are headlined in large, blue font

 

6/14

Rick DeSilva, owner of Liberty Subaru in New Jersey, made a special visit to our research lab to honor the memory of Colin Johnston, his former employee. Liberty Subaru has carried out several fundraisers for MCC in honor of Colin. Rick dropped off T-shirts, stickers, and checks to help in the fight against MCC. We all shared stories of why this fight is important, and the people who have been affected by this cancer.



 

 

 

 

Rick's visit was coordinated by Erin Walker of UW Development.

5/14

We created a short, informal Youtube video tour of Dr. Nghiem and the Lab team, thanking the Johnston family for their ongoing support in Colin's memory and explaining how the team is working hard to make a difference for MCC patients.

Youtube video


4/14


Remembering Colin Johnston & making a difference for future MCC patients, today would have been his 29th birthday. Our team is motivated, and fed with delicious fruit, a gift from his Mom, Betsy Johnston


Left to right: back row: Dafina, Amy, Natalie, Seesha, Chris, Kaifeng, Masaoki 
Left to right: front row: Jayasri, Natalie, Ryan, Paul

 

 

3/14

 

 

YouTube video of Dr. Nghiem’s March 5, 2014 lecture entitled “Clinical Utility of a Novel Assay for Tracking Tumor Burden in Merkel Cell Carcinoma” 

 

1/14

The Yolles family has created the Monica Yolles Fund designed to develop single fraction radiation therapy for recurrent or metastatic Merkel cell carcinoma. Using this approach, only a single dose (or 'fraction') of radiation is given. It has virtually no side effects and benefitted Monica over multiple years. This technique aims to improve the ability of the immune system to fight MCC. It quickly lowers the tumor burden, makes the cancer more visible to the immune system, and avoids destroying the killer T cells that recognize/localize to the tumor because they are not exposed to subsequent doses of radiation. Single fraction radiation also shows great promise in working with new immune stimulating drugs that are becoming available.

Monica & Robert Yolles

Monica & Robert Yolles

1/14 Dr. Shailender Bhatia will serve as the Principal Investigator for a new clinical trial of an immune stimulating agent, GLA-SE, for Merkel cell carcinoma patients who have recurrent or metastatic lesions that are injectable (in skin or possibly lymph nodes that are palpable). This represents the third new immune therapy trial launched in Seattle in the past 3 years (others were IL-12-electroporation and polyomavirus-specific adoptive T cell therapy). GLA-SE is an agonist (activator) of TLR4 signaling. This agent is being studied by Immune Design. The goal is to activate the patient's immune system to attack the tumor. This trial is supported by a grant from the Washington State Life Sciences Discovery Fund with support from the NIH/Seattle Cancer Consortium. The goal is to enroll 10 patients and the trial began in January 2014. Information about the trial is available here.
 

Dr. Shailender Bhatia holds a vial of GLA-SE, a TLR4 agonist, during the Site Initiation Visit / Meeting for this trial in December 2013.

Dr. Shailender Bhatia
1/14 Merkel Virus Serology Assay Goes Live
After five years of collaborative efforts by several dozen people at multiple institutions in research supported by the NIH and many generous patients/donors, the first blood test to identify early recurrences of Merkel cell carcinoma has gone live in January 2014. This test will be available to patients around the world.

For information about this test, see the Serology overview page or the Serology FAQ page.

11/13 Dr. Nghiem was honored to deliver the 38th M H Samitz Lectureship at University of Pennsylvania on
November 7, 2013. See PDF of program here.
9/9/2013

2013 MCC Dinner Meeting
This year saw more than 140 guests attend our annual dinner and enjoy camaraderie, fine food, lab tours, and hear more about the recent progress in our research since we were last gathered together.

MCCDinner

Lab Tour

Lab Tour

Research

 

11/12

2012 MCC Dinner Meeting
Over 100 people joined together on November 5th to enjoy dinner, tours of the research lab, and an overview of recent progress in Merkel cell carcinoma.

 

9/12 Recognizing that Merkel polyomavirus-negative MCCs are different and not well understood, the family and friends of Janet Canning have decided to support research that will help us to recognize, understand and manage this distinct and often aggressive sub-type of MCC. Click here to learn more.
8/12

Due to the success of last year's tournament, devoted to fundraising for Merkel cell carcinoma research, the friends and family of Milton R. Tarbox organized a second golf tournament, which ocurrred on a beautiful day in Rhode Island, August 13, 2012, to remember this special man. To date, more than $30,000 has been raised in his honor. For more information on Mr. Tarbox, click here. 

 

4/12 Staffan Svenby's family and friends contributed to MCC research and, together with Professor John Paoli, organized educational outreach at three universities in Sweden.
 
3/12 KIRO 7 / CBS reported on the interleukin-12 electroporation trial. Click here for the video.

OncoSec, the company that is developing the electroporation approach to cancer treatment, has created a more detailed summary of this approach. Click here for the video.

2/12

The Zent family has made a generous gift to MCC research in memory of their father/husband, Larry Zent, shown here on a family trip to British Columbia with his children, Chuck, Kip and Allison. Click here for details.

1/12

Congratulations to Dr. Shailender Bhatia and the whole team for bringing the process through years of dreaming, planning, organizing to actually treating our first patient with interleukin-12 plasmid DNA electroporation for MCC. The hope is that this local IL-12 will induce an immune response against local and distance disease. We certainly appreciate the support of OncoSec's (www.oncosec.com) excellent team which has been critical in bringing things to this important milestone. For more information on the IL-12 EP trial, click here.

Ernest Kitt from OncoSec is shown here with Dr. Shailender Bhatia.

10/11

Dr. Nghiem was appointed to the newly established Michael Piepkorn Endowed Chair in Dermatology Research, effective October 1, 2011. This endowment was established to support dermatologic research at the UW by Michael Piepkorn, MD, PhD, a Clinical Profesor in the Dermatology Division and a graduate of the UW Dermatology Residency Program. Dr. Piepkorn received his PhD from UW and has served for many years as a dermatologist, dermatopathologist, and investigator whose research is focused on melanoma.

8/11 The Nghiem lab is awarded an R01 grant from the NCI to study humoral and cellular immunity in polyomavirus-linked Merkel cell carcinoma.
6/11 Paul Nghiem discusses Americans' higher incidence of skin cancer on their left sides because of where we drive in our cars with Chris Sullivan from KIRO. A link to the article is available here.
7/11

The friends and family of Milton R. Tarbox of Rhode Island have organized a golf tournament, taking place on August 8th, in his honor to fundraise for Merkel cell carcinoma research. For more information on Mr. Tarbox, click here.

6/11 Paul Nghiem discusses sun exposure, skin cancer, and other skin-related issues on KUOW's "The Conversation" with Ross Reynolds. A link to a recording of the interview is available here.
6/11

Dr. Paulson's study of the risk of melanoma and Merkel cell carcinoma shows that about one in ten of these cancers is likely associated with sun exposure while driving because these cancers occur more often on the left arm in the US. In Australia, where drivers sit on the right side of the car, the risk is reversed from sun-associated skin cancers. A pdf of the article is available here, and a link to the USA Today article is available here.

5/11 Merkel cell carcinoma and its associated virus are featured in the National Cancer Institute (NCI) bulletin. The article describes the story of one MCC patient, George Campbell, and advances in research, including a blood test that is being developed by Dr. Nghiem's lab at the University of Washington. A link to the article is available here.
4/11

Dr. Kelly Paulson reports in the Journal of Clinical Oncology that "killer CD8 T cells," when present inside MCC tumors, predict excellent survival after MCC diagnosis. This study began by examining thousands of genes in MCC tumors. The initial finding was that survival was better among patients who had evidence of CD8 killer T cells in their tumors. Studies in a larger, independent set of 146 MCC patients showed that survival was improved if the CD8 T cells actually invaded into (not just nearby) the tumor. This test can now be performed by pathologists to give a better sense of chances of beating MCC at the time of the initial biopsy. A pdf of the article can be downloaded here.

3/11

Dr. Nghiem gives a talk on the good and bad of UV radiation at the 35th Hawaii Dermatology Seminar put on by the Skin Disease Education Foundation. A link to a video of the talk is available here.

11/10

The data and analysis to create a new staging system for Merkel cell carcinoma, now used worldwide, was published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. This was based on survival data from over 5000 MCC patients and reinforced the importance of sentinel lymph node biopsy in prognosis for this cancer. A pdf of the article is available here.

11/10

A new blood test for recurrence and disease status in Merkel cell carcinoma

A portion of the Merkel cell polyomavirus called the "T-antigen" (t is for tumor) is present in about 80% of all MCC tumors. This protein is critical for most MCC tumors to grow. In 2010, we reported that antibodies that recognize this T-antigen are present in about 50% of newly diagnosed MCC patients but are almost never present (<1%) in people without MCC (even though 50% of all people have this virus on their skin at any time).

More importantly, the levels of these antibodies to the T-antigen decrease rapidly after the cancer is removed from a patient by surgery, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy. By one year after effective treatment, antibody levels are down by about 90%, and continue to fall until they eventually become undetectable. In contrast, if the cancer returns, antibody levels rise rapidly among patients who had antibodies at the time of their original cancer.

By comparing the antibody levels at two time points, we can see if the cancer is in remission (falling or undetectable antibody levels) or is returning (rising levels). This test is not useful in patients who did not have antibodies at the time of their original cancer as they also do not make them after the cancer returns.

A pdf of the article is available here, and a letter to patients who have donated blood for this test is available here.

05/10 Kelly Paulson completes her PhD. She's now off to complete her MD. Remarkably, she will have more than ten publications from her three full-time years in the lab.
03/10 Dr. Priya Rao sets forth the guidelines for pathologists to describe the histologic features of MCC in their reports. A pdf of the article is available here.
01/10

On January 1, 2010, the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) adopted a new staging system for MCC. Dr. Nghiem led the MCC taskforce of the AJCC in this analysis and wrote the chapter with Dr. Bianca Lemos. A pdf of the chapter is available here.

12/09 Drs. Iyer, Koba & Nghiem outline new MCC ICD-9 codes and Staging System in a celebratory centennial review in the official Spanish Dermatology journal, Actas Dermo-sifiliograficus. A pdf of the article is available here.
10/09

The Nghiem Lab is awarded an RC2 Grand Opportunity "GO" grant for $1M entitled: "Targeting MCPyV to Overcome Immune Evasion in Merkel Cell Carcinoma".  This award will allow us to greatly expand our MCC resources in collaboration with Dr. Maryam Asgari at Kaiser Permanente Northern California, Dr. Cassian Yee at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (FHCRC) and Dr. David Koelle at University of Washington/FHCRC we will explore the immune response against the Merkel polyomavirus in patients and in controls with a goal of developing novel immune-based therapeutics..   

06/09

Drs. Jayasri Iyer & Paul Nghiem publish an article MCC: An Uncommon But Often Lethal Cancer in the Skin Cancer Foundation Journal.  This article describes MCC using easy to understand, non-technical language and includes information such as "Key Risk Factors", Merkel cell polyomavirus and general diagnosis/treatment guidelines. A pdf of the article is available here.

03/09 Drs. Jayasri Iyer & Paul Nghiem led an effort in 2008-09 in which they petitioned to the CDC and appropriate World Health Organization entities to create ICD-9 codes that are specific for Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC), rather than having MCC bundled under the 173 code for malignant neoplasm of skin (most commonly used for basal cell carcinomas).

This petition was reviewed in committees and then at a formal meeting in January 2009 in Maryland where it was accepted. We were particularly pleased that they granted seven codes specific to MCC as summarized below, and similar in general organization to those for melanoma. Beginning in October 2009, MCC should be reported using these new codes. This will greatly improve our ability to obtain insurance approval for procedures for MCC patients, as well as track costs, incidence, etc for this cancer.

03/09

Dr. Nghiem describes the warning signs of Merkel cell carcinoma on Seattle's King 5.  Merkel cell carcinoma usually starts as a cyst and grows fast. The key is to find it early by knowing what to look for.  The video and full article are available from King 5.

01/09

Dr. Nghiem attends the NIH sponsored MCC Workshop.  Topics discussed included Merkel cell polyomavirus; immunopathological and microscopic features of MCC; epidemiology of polyomaviruses; presentation, staging and prognosis of MCC as well as the current gaps in our understanding of MCC.  A goal of this meeting was to determine priorities for MCC research and funding in the future.

Group photo of MCC Workshop attendees.

Additional photos of the Workshop.

12/08 Dr. Paul Ngheim joins Andrew Schorr on Patient Power to discuss the dangers of MCC, how the sun factors in and who is at risk.   A transcript of the webcast is available for download here.
12/08

Patients, family, friends and researchers join together for a MCC Open House and dinner.  The event was held at UW Medicine's South Lake Union campus.  There were also Nghiem lab tours and a presentation of the current and future state of MCC research. 

Meeting together.

Kelly Paulson gives a lab tour.

Dr. Nghiem discusses MCC research.

Additional photos of the Open House

04/08

After he died, Martin Whatley's classic rock 'n' roll guitar became his last weapon against Merkel cell carcinoma. Whatley's frustrated widow carefully pulled the pristine 1964 Fender Stratocaster from under their bed and put it up for auction on eBay, pledging half the proceeds for Merkel cell carcinoma research and the rest to pay his medical bills.  Click here for a pdf of the MSNBC story.

04/08

Patients with Merkel cell carcinoma create an informational flyer to educate patients and physicians about this deadly cancer. The flyer contains general information about MCC and provides resources of where to get more detailed information. This grass-roots effort is aimed at increasing awareness of MCC.

click on the image for a pdf of the flyer

03/08

The first clinical description of Merkel cell carcinoma based on 195 patients in Dr. Nghiem's database is published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. We define the "AEIOU Features of MCC" which are Asymptomatic (non-tender), Expanding Rapidly, Immune suppression, Older than age 50, and UV exposed/fair skin. [pdf]

Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, March 2008

03/08

George Campbell (from the MCC Google Group) creates posters based on the AEIOU Features to raise awareness about MCC. Click here to see more.

02/08 The MMIG (Merkel cell carcinoma Multicenter Interest Group) had its third annual meeting in San Antonio, TX, at the American Academy of Dermatology. A brief summary of the presentations and discussion can be downloaded by clicking here.
02/08 A new virus is identified, called Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCV or MCPyV), in Science. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh discovered a new virus in 8 of 10 MCC tumors. The role of the Merkel cell polyomavirus in the cancer has yet to be determined, but it is an exciting lead for new research into the cause and treatment of MCC. Click here to read the New York Times about this new virus.
02/08 Information on Complementary & Alternative approaches to treating MCC, exercise and maximizing fruit and vegetable intake are added to the "Treatment" section of our website. Click here for more information.
02/08

First fresh tumor donated via the internet to our research! We received the first tissue donation from a patient whose surgery was not done in Seattle. By coordinating with the patient, his wife and his surgeon (and FedEx), we successfully obtained tissue. This resource is invaluable for our research studies. Thank you!

If you have an upcoming surgery and would also like to donate tissue, click here for more information.

02/08 Dr. Nghiem speaks on Merkel cell carcinoma at the 2008 American Academy of Dermatology in San Antonio, TX. A summary of the information presented can be downloaded by clicking here.
12/07

The family and friends of a loved one lost to MCC in California put on a Benefit Concert to Beat Cancer and donate all proceeds to our research.

11/07

New study launched to help understand MCC. The Nghiem lab has just been granted permission to interact with patient throughout the US who have MCC. In Phase 1 of this study, we would like to contact patients who plan to have surgery to removed MCC tumor tissue (primary or metastatic. If you are interested in participating in our research, please click here.

9/07

A patient of Dr. Nghiem's creates a temporary tattoo to help raise awareness for MCC.

Dr. Nghiem and Kelly Garneski proudly showing off their new "tattoos"

(close up of tattoo on right)

9/07 Drs. Nghiem and Lemos publish a short review of the biology of Merkel cell carcinoma in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology.

7/07

Dr. Nghiem is awarded a grant to improve MCC education for patients and physicians by the American Cancer Society - Jerry Wachter Fund. Jerry Wachter was the team photographer for the Baltimore Orioles and passed away this year from MCC. His family and friends created a fund in his honor to increase awareness of MCC. Click here for the press release award of this grant. Click on the image for a PDF of the JW Fund Mission:

 

6/07 Dr. Nghiem and Kelly Garneski publish a paper on the role of chemotherapy in MCC in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.
6/07 Drs. Nghiem and Heath publish a commentary on the role of Breslow depth in MCC in the Journal of Surgical Oncology.
4/07 Drs. Jaimes and Nghiem publish a new chapter on Merkel cell carcinoma in the 7th edition of Fitpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine textbook.

1/07

Dana Whatley sold a 1964 Fender Stratocaster guitar on ebay for $30,299, in memory of her husband. She is donating 50% of the proceeds to our Merkel cell carcinoma Research Program. We thank Dana for this extraodinarily generous donation.

2/07

Dr. Nghiem speaks on Merkel cell carcinoma at the 2007 American Academy of Dermatology in Washington, DC. A handout for this session can be downlaoded by clicking here.

2/07

The MMIG (Merkel cell carcinoma Multicenter Interest Group) had its second annual meeting in Washington, DC, at the American Academy of Dermatology. There was a very interesting and lively discussion, and a brief summary of the presentations and discussion can be downloaded by clicking here.

   Drs. Dan Coit, Klaus Busam and Siegrid Yu

     Dr. Clark Otley

Dr. Paul Nghiem

12/06 Drs. Nghiem and Lemos receive a pilot grant from the Skin Cancer Foundation. The funds will be used to collect MCC tumor samples and develop cell lines from these tumor samples for future molecular studies.
7/06

Drs. Heath and Lemos join the lab. Dr. Michelle Heath is a Dermatology Resident who will focus on the MCC patient database. Dr. Bianca Lemos is a Research Fellow who will assist with both the database and continuation of the genetic analysis of MCC.

Drs. Lemos and Heath

6/06 Kelly Garneski joins the lab to work on the molecular and genetic alterations in MCC. She is an MSTP student who will join the lab for her doctoral work.

6/06

The June 2006 issue of the Archives of Dermatology features several articles on Merkel cell carcinoma discussing the role of sentinal lymph node biopsy in prognosis and improved therapy, the importance of adjuvant radiation and an editorial highlighting the management and treatment of MCC.

Archives of Dermatology, June 2006

3/06

The "Merkel cell carcinoma Multicenter Interest Group" (MMIG) was organized and had its first meeting in San Francisco.  There were dermatologists, surgeons and radiation oncologists from over 10 institutions that came together with the goal of making a difference in MCC.  The MMIG hopes to pool resources, expertise and data to improve the diagnosis, management and therapy for this disease.

First meeting of the Merkel cell carcinoma Multicenter Interest Group

San Francisco, March 2006

1/06

Dr. Nghiem moves to the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.  Dr. Nghiem is returning to the Pacific Northwest where he and his wife grew up and their extended families are located.  He will run a research lab at the Dermatology Division of the University of Washington Medical Center at South Lake Union and see patients at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance / Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Expert care in Merkel cell carcinoma will continue to be provided at the Dana-Farber in Boston by Drs. Linda Wang and Harley Haynes.

11/05

Dr. Xiaohui Bi joins the lab to work on molecular and biological studies of Merkel cell carcinoma.  She will use high resolution array-comparative genomic hybridization (CGH) to discover chromosomal copy number alterations  (CNAs) that may indicate tumor suppressors (loss of region) and oncogenes (gain of region) in collaboration with Dr. Lynda Chin at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.  She will also use large scale lentiviral siRNA-based screening in Merkel cell carcinoma cell lines to search for kinases/signaling pathways that are essential for this cell type to grow.  siRNA-based screening will be a collaboration with Dr. William Hahn at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Dr. Bi brings a high level of experience in cancer biology and cell cycle biology with her from her postdoctoral fellowship with Dr. Cyrus Vaziri at Boston Medical Center.

Drs. Xiaohui Bi and Natalia Jaimes

8/05

Dr. Natalia Jaimes joins the lab to develop the MCC patient database in Boston and Seattle.  Using this database we will describe the presenting clinical characteristics of MCC and efficacy of radiation as mono-therapy.  She is also focusing on creating an IRB-approved MCC fresh tissue bank for genetic and biological studies.  She will begin a dermatology residency in Medellin Colombia in June 2006 at the Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana Medical School.

9/05

Discussion/support group begun by a patient at "Google Groups". See http://groups.google.com/group/merkelcell.
4/05 Dr. Nghiem received funding from the Harvard Skin Cancer SPORE to maintain a clinical database and tumor bank.  In addition, he will be leading genetic studies to futher understand the biology of MCC.
4/05 New study of 251 patients from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York concluded that 1) stage at presentation was an independent predictor of surival, 2) patients with pathologically negative lymph node involvement have an excellent prognosis and 3) suggested that there is no survival benefit to adjuvant chemotherapy.
3/05

Dr. Pablo Penas joins the lab from Madrid Spain for 6 months.  He will focus on the clinical database and preparing DNA samples from MCC tumor specimens for genetic analysis using comparative genomic hybridization.  In Madrid he is a dermatologist who runs a basic science lab.

Dr. Pablo Penas

2/05 Dr. Nghiem spoke on Merkel cell carcinoma at the 2005 American Academy of Dermatology Annual Meeting in New Orleans, LA.  Some 70 dermatologists from around the world attended the hour-long session and a brisk discussion occurred, in particular relating to staging and therapy of patients with this disease.  Preliminary results from our 61 MCC cases at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute were presented, as analyzed by Drs Gellenthin, Wang & Gupta.  Download a handout from this session by clicking here.

10/04

Dr. Martina Gellenthin, dermatology resident from Berlin joins the Merkel cell effort at Harvard.  She brings experience in skin cancer database management from her fellowship program in Berlin.  She will focus on creating a database for our ~150 Merkel cell carcinoma patients at Brigham and Women's Hospital, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Massachusetts General Hospital.  When she returns to Berlin she will continue her research on skin cancer while completing her training.

Dr Gellenthin

Dr. Martina Gellenthin

9/04 Dana-Farber patient makes first gift to Merkel cell carcinoma effort, partially funding creation of this website.
08/04 Launch of this website, merkelcell.org, the first to focus on Merkel cell carcinoma.
   
   
   

 

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