A study to look at a virus and the immune system in Merkel cell carcinoma

Please note - this trial is no longer recruiting patients. We hope to add results when they are available.

Cancer type:

Neuroendocrine tumour (NET)
Non melanoma skin cancer
Skin cancer





This study is looking at a virus that may have a role in causing Merkel cell carcinoma. In particular, how it is recognised by the body’s immune system.

Merkel cell carcinoma is a rare skin cancer. If possible, doctors treat Merkel cell skin cancer with surgery and radiotherapy. However, sometimes the cancer has spread to other parts of the body when it is diagnosed. In these cases other treatments, such as chemotherapy, are used but they tend to only work in the short term.

Recently researchers have found a virus, called MCV, in many Merkel cell skin cancers that they think may help to cause it. The virus is also found in lots of healthy people without causing any known illnesses. This makes them think that the immune system of a person with Merkel cell cancer may work differently when exposed to the virus compared with a healthy person.

By finding out more about this, they can try to learn about mechanisms the virus uses to promote cancer development and this may help to uncover new treatment strategies.

To find out more, they need to look at the virus and immune cells in the tissue and blood samples of people with Merkel cell skin cancer. They also want to compare these samples with the samples from people who don’t have Merkel cell skin cancer.

The aims of this study are to

  • Look for the virus in Merkel cell skin cancer
  • Find out more about the virus
  • Look at differences in how the virus is recognised by the immune system in people with and without Merkel cell skin cancer

Who can enter

You may be able to enter this study if you have, or have had, merkel cell skin cancer, or have had another type of non melanoma skin cancer and are attending the skin clinic at the University of Birmingham Foundation NHS Trust.

You may be invited to take part if you don’t have skin cancer and are having surgery at the University of Birmingham Foundation NHS Trust.

You cannot take part in this study if you have another serious medical condition.

Trial design

This is a pilot study. It will recruit 60 people who attend the skin clinic at the University of Birmingham Foundation NHS Trust. Not everyone invited to take part will have skin cancer.

The researchers will take at least 3 blood samples from everyone in the study. They may contact you later to ask if you can give some more blood samples. They will only take the blood samples if they think you are well enough.

If you have surgery for skin cancer, your surgeon will remove the cancer with a border of normal tissue around it. The research team will ask for small pieces of this tissue (biopsies). If you have any further surgery to remove skin cancer later, they may ask for more biopsies.

If you have already had surgery, they will ask for a small piece of the cancer tissue that the surgeon removed.

Hospital visits

The researchers will do their best to take the blood samples at your routine hospital visits.

Side effects

The researchers don’t anticipate any side effects from taking part in this study. Taking your blood may cause you some discomfort or bruising.

Recruitment start:

Recruitment end:

How to join a clinical trial

Please note: In order to join a trial you will need to discuss it with your doctor, unless otherwise specified.

Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Chief Investigator

Dr Neil Steven

Supported by

Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC)
Medical Research Council (MRC)
Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham Charities
University of Birmingham

If you have questions about the trial please contact our cancer information nurses

Freephone 0808 800 4040

Last review date

CRUK internal database number:

Oracle 5950

Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Charlie took part in a trial to try new treatments

A picture of Charlie

“I think it’s really important that people keep signing up to these type of trials to push research forward.”

Last reviewed:

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