Merkel Cell Carcinoma Joins the Cancers Treated With Checkpoint Inhibitor Immunotherapies

November 7, 2017

IN THIS ISSUE OF CURE® magazine, we celebrate a first. In March, the immunotherapy Bavencio (avelumab) became the first treatment approved by the FDA specifically to treat the rare skin disease Merkel cell carcinoma, a neuroendocrine cancer of the skin.

IN THIS ISSUE OF CURE® magazine, we celebrate a first. In March, the immunotherapy Bavencio (avelumab) became the first treatment approved by the FDA specifically to treat the rare skin disease Merkel cell carcinoma, a neuroendocrine cancer of the skin.

Before Bavencio, when the standard of care centered on surgery and radiation — sometimes with chemotherapy in the advanced setting — more than 30 percent of people who developed Merkel cell carcinoma died. In a trial of Bavencio in patients with the disease who had not been administered any chemotherapy, more than half responded.

Bavencio is a checkpoint inhibitor, and an example of why there’s so much excitement in the oncology community about this type of drug. These treatments target the proteins PD-1 or PD-L1, which naturally keep the immune system in check. By disabling the proteins, Bavencio and other drugs in the class allow the immune system to ramp up so that it can recognize and attack cancer.

Our article explains more about Bavencio and other drugs in the pipeline that may eventually treat Merkel cell carcinoma.

Elsewhere in this issue, we look at the complexities of treatment for women who are pregnant when their cancer is diagnosed. With tailored therapies, many women can both fight the disease and maintain healthy pregnancies that lead to live births. Our article explains how.

We also consider some uses for hypnosis, including not only palliative indications, such as pain and anxiety relief, but also the newer idea of using the technique to replace anesthesia during certain surgeries.

Sometimes, the language of cancer affects quality of life for people touched by the disease. For example, when is it appropriate to start calling a patient a survivor? In a feature in this issue, several experts weigh in.

Finally, we bring you an article about the Patient Access Network Foundation, which helps to pay out-of-pocket medical costs for people who are underinsured and have certain chronic or life-threatening illnesses, including many cancers. We give details about the opportunities offered to our readers by this nonprofit organization.

We hope that the diverse articles in this seasonal issue of CURE® will offer you inspiration and education about treatments or strategies that can help you better navigate your cancer journey.

As always, thank you for reading.

MIKE HENNESSY, SR. Chairman and CEO


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