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Merkel cell carcinoma is a very rare and aggressive skin cancer typically caused by the Merkel cell polyomavirus. It was discovered by scientists at the University of Pittsburgh in 2008. MCM is also known as primary neuroendocrine carcinoma of the skin or trabecular cancer.

Approximately 80% of Merkel cell carcinomas are caused by Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCV). Sun exposure and having a weak immune system are also risk factors. While patients with a small tumor (less than 2 cm) that has not yet metastasized to regional lymph nodes have an expected 5-year survival rate of more than 80 percent, the rate drops to about 50 percent once the cancer has metastasized. Standard treatment options include surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy.

Because of the viral origin for this cancer, immunotherapies are a promising avenue for research to treat virus-positive Merkel cell carcinoma. Merkel Cell Carcinoma research at CERID is focused on disease genetic susceptibility and vaccine development. 

Source: National Cancer Institute