Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is a highly aggressive, often lethal neuroendocrine cancer of the skin associated with the recently discovered, common Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCV). With an incidence of 0.44 per 100,000 MCC is a very rare cancer. Notably, however, although MCC is 40 times less common than malignant melanoma, MCC has a dramatically higher mortality rate than melanoma rendering MCC to the most lethal skin cancer (37 versus 15 percent). This high mortality rate is largely due to the fact that to date none of the currently available therapeutic interventions is able to improve overall survival of patients suffering from metastatic disease. Consequently, new therapeutic strategies are needed for metastatic MCC. Since several lines of evidence indicate the outstanding immunogenicity of MCC, immune modulating treatment strategies are particularly attractive. IMMOMEC is a 4-year project to establish and investigate an innovative and effective immunotherapy for MCC, thus directly responding to the aims of the topic HEALTH-2011.2.4.1-1 Investigator-driven treatment trials for rare cancers.
IMMOMEC will develop a rational immune therapeutic approach for treatment of patients with MCC that is based on the targeted delivery of interleukin-2 to the tumor microenvironment. However, IMMOMEC will not only provide a new therapeutic option for MCC patients, but will also establish the relevance of immune modulating strategies to treat solid cancers in general, establish and validate new tools to monitor patients receiving such therapies as well as compile prognostic and predictive biomarkers to individualize immune modulating therapies. Moreover, IMMOMEC will introduce a new immunemodulating therapeutic produced by a European SME, which also holds the intellectual property rights.