An immunotherapy has become the first of its kind approved to treat Merkel cell carcinoma, a rare and still mysterious skin cancer.

July 17, 2017


Publication Date

July 17, 2017


Tara Haelle


It was a few days after her son’s 6th birthday party four years ago when Carrie Best rolled over in bed and felt a pinch in her armpit. When she reached over and touched it, she jolted awake. Soon she’d learn that she had cancer.

“I had a lump the size of a grape under my arm,” says Best, a 50-year-old school psychologist from Dublin, Ohio. Because her mother was a breast cancer survivor, Best was already at high risk for cancer, and she called the oncologist she regularly saw for screenings. After an ultrasound, mammogram and biopsy, her oncologist delivered the good news and the bad news: “You don’t have breast cancer,” she told Best. “You have a cancer called neuroendocrine carcinoma with an unknown primary.”

Based on that, the doctor estimated that Best had less than a 15 percent chance of surviving.

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