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PLoS One. 2013 Nov 18;8(11):e80543. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0080543. eCollection 2013.

Response of Merkel cell polyomavirus-positive merkel cell carcinoma xenografts to a survivin inhibitor.

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Cancer Virology Program, University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States of America.


Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is a neuroendocrine skin cancer associated with high mortality. Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCV), discovered in 2008, is associated with ~80% of MCC. The MCV large tumor (LT) oncoprotein upregulates the cellular oncoprotein survivin through its conserved retinoblastoma protein-binding motif. We confirm here that YM155, a survivin suppressor, is cytotoxic to MCV-positive MCC cells in vitro at nanomolar levels. Mouse survival was significantly improved for NOD-Scid-Gamma mice treated with YM155 in a dose and duration dependent manner for 3 of 4 MCV-positive MCC xenografts. One MCV-positive MCC xenograft (MS-1) failed to significantly respond to YM155, which corresponds with in vitro dose-response activity. Combination treatment of YM155 with other chemotherapeutics resulted in additive but not synergistic cell killing of MCC cell lines in vitro. These results suggest that survivin targeting is a promising therapeutic approach for most but not all MCV-positive MCCs.

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