Orphan drugs and other treatment options for Merkel cell carcinoma

Jürgen Becker, MD, PhD from the University Hospital Essen, Essen, Germany discusses new innovative treatment options for Merkel cell carcinoma at the 2016 World Congress on Cancers of the Skin (WCCS) and the Congress of the European Association of Dermato-Oncology (EADO) in Vienna, Austria. These drugs can be classified as orphan drugs, specific for Merkel cell carcinoma, which act to interfere with viral proteins that drive the disease. PDL-1 and PD-1 blockade treatments are also used in Merkel cell carcinoma but are widely used in other diseases as well. Dr Becker describes cellular therapy as a treatment option for Merkel cell carcinoma, this is effective since the disease has a lot of immune escape mechanisms, which is why only 50% of the patients are responding to PDL-1 and PD-1 blockade. Vaccines are another alternative therapy which aim to boost immune responses in patients. What Dr Becker is currently working on is epigenetic priming of tumor cells to make them more accessible for T-cell responses.

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