Treatment / Clinical trials

Clinical trials

Purpose of clinical trials

Clinical trials are how we formally test whether or not a drug is beneficial for patients with a disease. Several clincial trials are available for Merkel cell carcinoma Merkel cell carcinoma A skin cancer composed of cells that look microscopically similar to normal Merkel cells present in the skin. MCC was first described in 1972 and only in the 1990s was the CK20 antibody developed to make it easily identifiable by pathologists. Many doctors and patients are not aware of this cancer because of its recent description and relative rarity (~2,000 cases/year in the US--roughly 30 times less common than melanoma). About 40% of patients treated for MCC will experience a recurrence, making it far more aggressive than most other types of skin cancer, including melanoma. .

Some patients enroll in clinical trials that allow them to gain access to cancer cancer A term used to describe diseases in which abnormal cells continually divide without normal regulation. Cancerous cells may invade surrounding tissues and may spread to other regions of the body via blood and the lymphatic system. treatments that are not otherwise available. For MCC, there are active clinical trials using immune checkpoint inhibitors immune checkpoint inhibitors Immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) are therapies that turns on the immune system by blocking an inhibitor (a 'checkpoint') that normally restrains the immune system. Such agents can sometimes cause the immune system to recognize and destroy a cancer. . Please visit our Immunotherapy page for more information on these agents. There is a need for more patients to enroll in clinical trials, as outlined by an MCC patient in the New York Times.

Who this works for

MCC patients that meet the clinical trial’s eligibility requirements.

Who this doesn’t work for

Patients that do not meet the clinical trial’s eligibility requirements, or who are unable to travel to the site at which the trial is being performed.

Side effects

Depending on the agent, there are many side effects ranging from fatigue to autoimmune responses.

Often used in conjunction with

Trials are very specific as to what can and cannot be used together with the agent being tested.

What to do next

Explore active MCC trials at the National Institutes of Health’s website. The website lists active MCC clinical trials, their eligibility requirements, and locations. If you believe you may qualify for a clinical trial, please contact your MCC physician or the investigator listed on the NCI website for that trial.

There is currently a multicenter clinical trial recruiting patients who have had MCC and are at risk for disease recurrence. For more information click here.



What kind of treatments are administered on Merkel cell carcinoma clinical trials?

Typically, MCC clinical trials administer immune checkpoint inhibitors but also include chemotherapy, certain types of radiation, and combinations of therapies. Please explore the National Institutes of Health’s website to learn more about active MCC clinical trials, their eligibility, and location sites.

What are the requirements for Merkel cell carcinoma clinical trials?

Every clinical trial has a different set of requirements, and can limit enrollment based on age, tumor size, extent of disease, past treatments and immune status.