Recap: 2nd International Symposium on Merkel Cell Carcinoma

April 28, 2022

The UW Division of Dermatology hosted the 2nd International Symposium on Merkel Cell Carcinoma in Seattle, Wash, from April 25-26, 2022. The two-day hybrid (in-person and virtual) event held at the Graduate Hotel brought together over 140 thought leaders, active investigators, faculty and trainees in Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) from around the world for the purpose of promoting scientific discourse and collaboration toward the goal of improved understanding of MCC biology, pathogenesis and therapy.

Paul Nghiem, MD, PhD, professor and Head of the Division of Dermatology, hosted this year’s symposium and led attendees through a litany of topics focused on MCC. Dr. Nghiem runs a research lab focused on this cancer. Merkel cell carcinoma is one of the most aggressive forms of skin cancer with a high risk (~40%) for returning (recurring) and spreading (metastasizing), often within two to three years after initial diagnosis.

Dr. Paul Nghiem kicks off the MCC Symposium.

Over 30 scientists and physicians spoke during the symposium either in-person or virtually. Presentation topics discussed during the event included MCC biology, treatments, clinical trial updates, disease surveillance, real-world studies, and updates on the most recent clinical guidelines and emerging data. View the complete event schedule.

A number of focused panel discussions followed the symposium’s oral presentations, allowing for real-time feedback, questions and collaboration. Topics covered included genomics, radiation therapy and surgery, socioeconomic and racial disparities in MCC, immunotherapy and new therapies currently in development.

The symposium also included a poster session which invited 30 researchers (undergraduate students, MD and PhD candidates) to share their work and illustrate their research methods with fellow attendees.


Best Poster Award Winner, Varsha Ananthapadmanabhan, PhD, Research Fellow, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

MCC Symposium Award Recipients

Featured Abstract Award

Derin Keskin, PhD, Lead Immunologist at Translational Immuno-Genomics Lab, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (Boston, Mass.) 
Abstract Title: “Virally mediated mechanisms of HLA class I loss in Merkel cell carcinoma and implications for viral epitope presentation.”

Best Poster Award

Varsha Ananthapadmanabhan, PhD, Research Fellow, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (Boston, Mass.)
Poster Title: “Milademetan is a highly potent MDM2 inhibitor in TP53 wild-type (p53 WT) models of Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC).”


Genomics and Novel Targets – Panel Discussion


Thank you to all the attendees, lecturers and poster presenters who traveled to attend this year’s symposium. We hope you enjoyed the experience and look forward to collaborating with you in the future. We’re grateful to be a part of a community of such passionate research and healthcare professionals.

Thank you to our event organizers who worked tirelessly to make this year’s symposium a success; Mary Ann Valentine and the entire UW Continuing Medical Education team, Krista Lachance, MS, Nghiem Lab Research Manager, Rima Kulikauskas, B.S., Nghiem Lab Senior Research Scientist, Candice Church, PhD, Nghiem Lab Research Scientist, Kelsey Cahill, B.S., Nghiem Lab Research Coordinator, members of the abstract review team, and the entire staff from the Graduate Hotel.

Lastly, a special appreciation to our MCC Symposium exhibitors for their generous support of this educational event:

  • EMD Serono
  • Immunomic Therapeutics
  • Kartos Therapeutics
  • Merck
  • Natera
  • Rain Therapeutics

To learn more about Merkel cell carcinoma and the Division of Dermatology’s ongoing research, visit the Nghiem Lab website.

Many participants briefly removed their masks for this photo, but careful precautions were followed during the meeting to minimize risks as many participants provide care for immune suppressed patients or were traveling internationally.