Virus Is Linked to a Powerful Skin Cancer

January 8, 2008


The New York Times

Publication Date

January 8, 2008


Lawrence K. Altman Summary

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.


Scientists have discovered a previously unknown virus and strongly linked it with the most aggressive form of skin cancer, they reported in a scientific journal on Thursday.

The cancer, Merkel cell carcinoma, tends to occur most often on the sun-exposed areas of the body like the face, the head and the neck. Although it is rare, its incidence tripled from 1986 to 2001, and it now accounts for an estimated 1,200 cases in this country each year, the National Cancer Institute says.

The virus was discovered by a University of Pittsburgh team that includes Dr. Patrick S. Moore and his wife, Dr. Yuan Chang. In 1994, when they were at Columbia University, Dr. Moore and Dr. Chang discovered human herpes virus 8, which causes Kaposi’s sarcoma, the most common malignancy in AIDS patients.

View the article