Cancer Treatment

What is Merkel Cell Carcinoma?

Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is an aggressive form of skin cancer. It is linked to exposure to ultraviolet rays, but about 80% of cases are associated with a virus called Merkel cell polyomavirus. There are currently no FDA-approved drugs to treat Merkel cell carcinoma. While some patients do respond to chemotherapy, after about three months, the disease typically progresses, leaving patients with few, if any, treatment options.

Why is the Al Copeland Foundation Involved in this Merkel Cell Trial?

Merkel cell carcinoma took the life of Al Copeland Sr. in 2008. There were no and are still no FDA-approved treatments for Merkel cell carcinoma. After their experience searching for an effective treatment, the Copeland family dedicated themselves to raising funds to help find a cure for this and other cancers, and the Al Copeland Foundation was born. The ACF chose LSU Health New Orleans as its partner in this quest and continues to raise funds for cancer research at LSU Health New Orleans.

Information about the Merkel Cell Trial in New Orleans

LSU Health New Orleans is recruiting participants to a clinical trial to determine the effectiveness of MK-3475 (pembrolizumab) in treating patients with Merkel cell cancer that cannot be removed by surgery, or controlled with treatment, or has spread to other parts of the body. It is the first systemic intervention for patients with advanced Merkel cell carcinoma. Pembrolizumab is an immunotherapy drug. Immunotherapy works differently than chemotherapy in that it boosts the body’s own natural defense system to help fight cancer. LSU Health New Orleans is one of 11 sites in the country selected to enroll patients in this clinical trial.

How do I Get More Information?

To find out if you qualify or for more information about the Merkel cell carcinoma clinical trial at LSU Health New Orleans, call 504-407-7395.  You may also visit

How Can I Help?

The Al Copeland Foundation is working hard to raise the critical funds needed to bring this and other ground breaking treatments to the Gulf State Area!  We ask you to donate to help us fulfill Big Al’s wish to save lives and end cancer, help us spread the word so those that need treatment know it is right here at home and join us at one of our many events through the year!

If you need further information or help, please call the Al Copeland Foundation at 504-620-3727 or email