Immunotherapy drug becomes first therapy approved by FDA for rare skin cancer

March 24, 2017


Hutch News

Publication Date

March 24, 2017


Susan Keown Summary

Metastasis is common in MCC ― the cancer spreads in about a third of patients. The federal agency has granted avelumab (pronounced a-VELL-oo-mab) a broad approval, for use in any adult or adolescent patient with metastatic MCC.The approval as a first- and second-line therapy “is a really big deal,” said MCC expert Dr. Paul Nghiem of the University of Washington and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, who was a senior investigator on the avelumab trial. Nghiem’s team conducted foundational work on the role of immune cells in MCC that paved the way for immunotherapy trials in the disease, including a trial he leads of another immunotherapy drug as a first-line therapy in advanced MCC.


Imagine being told you had a rare and exceedingly deadly cancer ― and, if that wasn’t bad enough, that there was not a single drug approved to treat your disease.

Tom Judd doesn’t have to imagine. He’s lived through it. After being diagnosed in 2013 with the skin cancer Merkel cell carcinoma, Judd’s cancer jumped from his face throughout his body, growing until it interfered dangerously with organ function. By early 2015, the cancer that some of his doctors had never heard of had nearly killed him despite surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.

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