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A New Immunotherapy Treatment for Merkel Cell Carcinoma

Produced by the Federal Laboratory Consortium (FLC) for their Labs in Action series, "A New Immunotherapy Treatment for Merkel Cell Carcinoma" tells the story of the discovery, collaborative development and realization of a new treatment for a rare type of skin cancer.  

Video Highlights Successful Partnership That Resulted in a New Treatment Option for Merkel Cell Carcinoma.

Dr. James Gulley, Co-Director for Immuno-Oncology, Clinical Director, NCI

Dr. James Gulley comments on the path to discovery of a new treatment for Merkel cell carcinoma, a very rare disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the skin.

Credit: FLC Video screen capture



A new video produced by the Federal Laboratory Consortium (FLC), as part of their Labs in Action series, highlights the successful partnership between NCI and EMD Serono, Inc. that resulted in the strategic use of Avelumab® to treat metastatic Merkel cell and urothelial carcinomas. Merkel cell carcinoma is a rare and devastating skin cancer with few treatment options. In the video, James Gulley, M.D., Ph.D., F.A.C.P. (Co-Director, Center for Immuno-Oncology; Clinical Director, NCI) who lead the NCI studies, comments that “treatment for Merkel cell carcinoma was very difficult and there was no FDA approved therapy.” Because of its rareness, it was not being focused on by others. Through Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs) and a variety of Material Transfer Agreements (MTAs), NCI partnered with EMD Serono to conduct studies to evaluate some of the company’s proprietary agents, like Avelumab®, and amended an existing CRADA to include new clinical trials for other cancer types.  

Through this important partnership, Avelumab® was approved by the FDA in 2017 for metastatic Merkel cell carcinoma. In 2020, the FDA extended its approval to urothelial carcinoma maintenance treatment.  

Supervisory Technology Transfer Manager, Michael Pollack, Ph.D., NCI TTC, managed the technology transfer aspects of the NCI and EMD Serono partnership. Dr. Pollack shared, “It’s really been a great demonstration of how NCI can collaborate with companies to advance the development of their agents and create win-wins for everyone.” Watch the video to learn more

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