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FDA OKs Treatment For Rare Skin Cancer, Metastatic Merkel Cell Carcinoma

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Despite being the most common form of cancer, metastatic Merkel cell carcinoma, a rare and serious type of skin cancer, did not have any available treatment until now.

FDA Approves Skin Cancer Drug

Through an official press release, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced that it has finally given an accelerated approval to avelumab (Bavencio) for the treatment of metastatic Merkel cell carcinoma for patients 12 years and older. The said treatment also includes patients who have not gone through chemotherapy treatment.

According to the FDA, their approval of avelumab was founded on compelling scientific evidence from a single-arm trial involving 88 patients with metastatic Merkel cell carcinoma who had prior chemotherapy treatment.

Of the 88 patients who received the said skin cancer treatment in the trial, 33 percent reported complete or partial shrinkage of tumors. The positive effect lasted for more than six months in 86 percent of the responding patients and more than 12 months in 45 percent of responding patients.

That said study, known as the JAVELIN Merkel 2000, was published online in Lancet Oncology.

The FDA also noted some side effects of Bavencio, such as fatigue, musculoskeletal pain, diarrhea, nausea, rash, and swelling of the limbs among others.

What Is Metastatic Cell Carcinoma

First described by physician Cyril Toker in 1972, the disease is also known as the Toker tumor.

The National Cancer Institute describes metastatic Merkel cell carcinoma an aggressive neuroendocrine carcinoma arising in the dermoepidermal junction.

The first signs of metastatic Merkel cell carcinoma usually appear in parts of the skin always exposed to the sun, such as the face, neck, arms, or legs. Initially, it may look like harmless pinkish or reddish bumps on the skin that is not painful. But as the disease progresses, the skin on top of the tumor can break out and bleed.

Its tumors can grow and spread quickly, affecting surrounding tissues and nearby lymph nodes.

Risk Factors And Possible Causes

Based on the website of the American Cancer Society, there are a number of risk factors that may affect your chances of developing metastatic Merkel cell carcinoma, such as:

• Infection with Merkel cell polyomavirus
• Ultraviolet light exposure from direct sunlight, tanning beds, and psoriasis treatments
• Having a compromised immune system (for example, people with human immunodeficiency virus or HIV and other types of blood cancers)

In addition, higher risks are also seen in older people and those who have fair-colored skin. Men are also more likely to develop metastatic Merkel cell carcinoma compared to women.

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