‘Remarkable’ Responses in Rare Merkel-­Cell Skin Cancer

April 19, 2016



Publication Date

April 19, 2016


Zosia Chustecka


NEW ORLEANS, LA — The first­-ever positive clinical trial in a rare skin cancer, Merkel­cell carcinoma (MCC), has shown one of the highest response rates yet seen with immunotherapy. The trial was conducted in 26 patients who received pembrolizumab (Keytruda, Merck), 14 of whom responded (56%), and 12 with ongoing response.

Immunotherapies acting on the programmed cell death (PD) pathways have typically shown responses in about a third of patients.

“The responses were rapid, and were either present or not,” said principal investigator Paul Nghiem MD, PhD, affiliate investigator, clinical research division, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and professor of medicine, division of dermatology, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle. The first scan, at 3 months, showed who was or was not responding, he said.

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