Merkel Cell Carcinoma

Merkel Cell Carcinoma (MCC) is a rare and 
highly aggressive form of skin cancer. MCC is about 40 times more rare than melanoma and three times the mortality rate. About 2,000 new cases are diagnosed in the U.S. every year. That's the scary part. The good news - there is hope.  New treatments and clinical trials are helping many MCC patients live longer.

Sadly, most people have never heard of MCC and many doctors/dermatologists have not seen a case of it in their practice. Many patients are initially misdiagnosed as having a cyst or benign bump and told not to worry about it. Since MCC is an aggressive cancer, wasted time can lead to growth of a primary tumor or metastasis to lymph nodes and organs. Finding the most knowledgeable medical resources for diagnosis and treatment is essential.

Getting the support of others who are also coping with MCC can be a helpful way of getting information and feeling less overwhelmed, lost or frightened.  The MCC Seattle Support Group is here to help and provide some hope during a difficult time. We invite you to look over our website for more information about us, our meeting schedule, and other helpful MCC related resources.

More About Merkel Cell Carcinoma

MCC is unlike most other types of cancer. The cause of MCC is a virus (Merkel Cell Polyomavirus). We are all exposed to the virus and it remains dormant on the skin. In order for the virus to become active, a set of conditions and cellular events must occur that researchers have theories about but do not completely understand. However, some of these conditions include a suppressed immune system, age and sun exposure. When the virus penetrates our immune system defenses a tumor will form on that location of the skin then spread to the lymph nodes, and eventually throughout the rest of the body. Some people with MCC do not develop a primary tumor on the skin.

About half of patients with MCC respond to traditional chemotherapy. Even if that does work, the cancer usually recurs within an average of three months.  Surgery and radiation are more effective treatments depending on the stage of diagnosis and location of the tumor(s). New immunotherapy drugs (e.g., Keytruda, Yervoy, Opdivo) are proving to be very effective forms of treatment for a higher percentage of patients with MCC.

This is just a very brief overview of this highly complex form of cancer.  There are a number of more detailed sources of information about MCC and its treatment. Please refer to MCC Resources & Links and MCC Research & News Articles (links at left) for additional information.

It is critically important to educate yourself about MCC and treatment options, including participation in any available clinical research trials. It is also essential to work with doctors experienced in treating MCC patients. Please refer to List of MCC Specialists (link at left) to locate experts in your area.