Pembrolizumab Immunotherapy Benefits Some Merkel Cell Carcinoma Patients

May 2, 2016


Publication Date

May 2, 2016

Overview What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Nghiem: Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is about 30 times less common than malignant melanoma, but about 3 times more likely to kill a patient than a melanoma. There is no FDA-approved therapy for this cancer & chemotherapy typically only provides about 90 days prior to the cancer progressing. Because of the strong links between MCC and the immune system, including the fact that most MCCs are caused by a virus, there was interest in trying to use immune checkpoint therapy to treat advanced Merkel cell carcinoma. The response to immune stimulation with anti-PD1 therapy was about as frequent as to chemotherapy (56% of patients responded) but importantly, among the responders, 86% remained in ongoing responses at a median of 7.6 months. While still early, this appears to be strikingly more durable than responses to chemotherapy.

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