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The Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey is testing a new immunotherapy drug for the treatment of a type of skin cancer called Merkel cell carcinoma. It was found to be well-tolerated and with a clinical benefit seen in up to 42 percent of patients who failed prior treatment and were observed for at least six months.

“The typical patient with metastatic Merkel cell is a male in his mid-70s and often with co-morbid disease. A lot of patients in this population are unable to tolerate chemotherapy.  Those who are may not see a response for up to three months, and side effects are likely. Our study shows the response to avelumab is not only durable for some patients but also rapid, which translates into a manageable quality of life for them,” says Kaufman. “Yes, it may be a minor inconvenience to undergo an infusion for the treatment, but we’re seeing patients leaving the clinic feeling well and heading out to normal activities like shopping or dinner – not something we often see after chemotherapy is administered.  The safety profile is remarkable. Side effects are easily managed and consistent with anti-PD-L1 antibodies in other tumor types,” notes Kaufman.

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