In Rare Skin Cancer, Virus Emerges as Target and Tool

May 17, 2011


National Cancer Institute

Publication Date

May 17, 2011


Edward R. Winstead Summary

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.


In the spring of 2005, George Campbell was vacationing with his wife in California when he noticed a bump on his left arm. The bump was colorless and painless, but it had not been there before. When the 57-year-old U.S. Air Force retiree returned home to South Carolina, his doctor lanced the growth, and Campbell hoped that would be the end of it.

But a month later, the bump was four times its original size. The doctor then removed the growth and some skin around the area. After eight pathologists analyzed the tissue, Campbell received a diagnosis: Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC), a rare but aggressive form of skin cancer.

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