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Cancers (Basel). 2014 May 16;6(2):1180-94. doi: 10.3390/cancers6021180.

Systemic Therapy for Merkel Cell Carcinoma: What's on the Horizon?

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Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School, Department of Medical Oncology, Center for Head and Neck Oncology, 450 Brookline Avenue, Boston, MA 02215, USA.


Merkel cell carcinoma is an aggressive neuroendocrine skin cancer that usually affects elderly patients. Despite being uncommon, incidence has been steadily increasing over the last two decades, likely due to increased awareness, better diagnostic methods and aging of the population. It is currently one of the most lethal cutaneous malignancies, with a five-year overall survival of approximately 50%. With the better understanding of the molecular pathways that lead to the development of Merkel cell carcinoma, there has been an increasing excitement and optimism surrounding novel targeted therapies, in particular to immunotherapy. Some of the concepts surrounding the novel targeted therapies and currently ongoing clinical trials are reviewed here.

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