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Unanswered Questions in the Management of Stage I-III Merkel Cell Carcinoma

Jonathan S. Zager, Jane L. Messina, L. Frank Glass, and Vernon K. Sondak

Many unanswered questions remain about what constitutes appropriate guidelines for treatment of Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC). In this review, we address current uncertainty surrounding optimal management of MCC. These areas of uncertainty include early recognition features; clinical and histopathologic prognostic factors; optimum margins of excision of the primary tumor; indications for and value of surgical staging of the clinically negative regional nodes; optimum management of the patient with pathologically positive regional nodes; and indications for and value of radiation to the primary and regional nodes. Through identifying and elaborating on these areas of uncertainty, the authors hope to foster additional research and ultimately improve the evidence base for future iterations of the NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology in this rare but increasingly encountered cutaneous malignancy. The intent, however, is not to exhaustively identify all areas of controversy, but rather to highlight clinically relevant questions that further studies could address to improve the standard of care for MCC.

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Controversies in the Evaluation and Management of Atypical Melanocytic Proliferations in Children, Adolescents, and Young Adults

Damon Reed, Ragini Kudchadkar, Jonathan S. Zager, Vernon K. Sondak, and Jane L. Messina

The rising incidence of melanoma in children has brought increased attention to the clinical and pathologic diagnosis of pigmented lesions in the pediatric age group. Although melanoma in infancy and early childhood is often associated with large congenital nevi, in older children and teenagers it is most often sporadic, occurring in patients with a low skin phototype and substantial sun exposure. The rarity of this potentially fatal disorder demands astute clinical attention and a high index of suspicion for atypical lesions in pediatric patients. The challenges include the difficult decision of whether to biopsy and an often equivocal pathologic diagnosis. These diagnostically challenging and equivocal lesions lead to a degree of uncertainty regarding additional workup, prognosis, potential therapy, and follow-up plans. Consultation with a specialty dermatopathologist can be very helpful, and advanced molecular diagnostic techniques may be used in selected circumstances. Although still controversial, good evidence exists to justify a role for sentinel lymph node biopsy. Patients with atypical melanocytic proliferations have a high rate of positive sentinel lymph nodes; however, their outcomes are clearly better than in similarly staged adults with conventional melanoma. With the multiple variables involved and the relative lack of prospectively derived evidence, clinical decision-making is challenging and patients and families may experience considerable stress. This article provides data and weighs the pros and cons of a rationale for decision-making in pediatric and young adult patients with diagnostically challenging melanocytic lesions.

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Occult Primary

David S. Ettinger, Mark Agulnik, Justin M. M. Cates, Mihaela Cristea, Crystal S. Denlinger, Keith D. Eaton, Panagiotis M. Fidias, David Gierada, Jon P. Gockerman, Charles R. Handorf, Renuka Iyer, Renato Lenzi, John Phay, Asif Rashid, Leonard Saltz, Lawrence N. Shulman, Jeffrey B. Smerage, Gauri R. Varadhachary, Jonathan S. Zager, and Weining (Ken) Zhen

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Regional Radiation Therapy Impacts Outcome for Node-Positive Cutaneous Melanoma

Tobin Strom, Javier F. Torres-Roca, Akash Parekh, Arash O. Naghavi, Jimmy J. Caudell, Daniel E. Oliver, Jane L. Messina, Nikhil I. Khushalani, Jonathan S. Zager, Amod Sarnaik, James J. Mulé, Andy M. Trotti, Steven A. Eschrich, Vernon K. Sondak, and Louis B. Harrison

Background: Regional radiation therapy (RT) has been shown to reduce the risk of regional recurrence with node-positive cutaneous melanoma. However, risk factors for regional recurrence, especially in the era of sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB), are less clear. Our goals were to identify risk factors associated with regional recurrence and to determine whether a radiosensitivity index (RSI) gene expression signature (GES) could identify patients who experience a survival benefit with regional RT. Methods: A single-institution, Institutional Review Board–approved study was performed including 410 patients treated with either SLNB with or without completion lymph node dissection (LND; n=270) or therapeutic LND (n=91). Postoperative regional RT was delivered to the involved nodal basin in 83 cases (20.2%), to a median dose of 54 Gy (range, 30–60 Gy) in 27 fractions (range, 5–30). Primary outcomes were regional control and overall survival by RSI GES status. Results: Median follow-up was 69 months (range, 13–180). Postoperative regional RT was associated with a reduced risk of regional recurrence among all patients on univariate (5-year estimate: 95.0% vs 83.3%; P=.036) and multivariate analysis (hazard ratio[HR], 0.15; 95% CI, 0.05–0.43; P<.001). Among higher-risk subgroups, regional RT was associated with a lower risk of regional recurrence among patients with clinically detected lymph nodes (n=175; 5-year regional control: 94.1% vs 69.5%; P=.003) and extracapsular extension (ECE) present (n=138; 5-year regional control: 96.7% vs 62.2%; P<.001). Among a subset of radiated patients with gene expression data available, a low RSI GES (radiosensitive) tumor status was associated with improved survival compared with a high RSI GES (5-year: 75% vs 0%; HR, 10.68; 95% CI, 1.24–92.14). Conclusions: Regional RT was associated with a reduced risk of regional recurrence among patients with ECE and clinically detected nodal disease. Gene expression data show promise for better predicting radiocurable patients in the future. In the era of increasingly effective systemic therapies, the value of improved regional control potentially takes on greater significance.

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Occult Primary, Version 3.2014

David S. Ettinger, Charles R. Handorf, Mark Agulnik, Daniel W. Bowles, Justin M. Cates, Mihaela Cristea, Efrat Dotan, Keith D. Eaton, Panagiotis M. Fidias, David Gierada, G. Weldon Gilcrease, Kelly Godby, Renuka Iyer, Renato Lenzi, John Phay, Asif Rashid, Leonard Saltz, Richard B. Schwab, Lawrence N. Shulman, Jeffrey B. Smerage, Marvaretta M. Stevenson, Gauri R. Varadhachary, Jonathan S. Zager, Weining (Ken) Zhen, Mary Anne Bergman, and Deborah A. Freedman-Cass

The NCCN Guidelines for Occult Primary tumors provide recommendations for the evaluation, workup, management, and follow-up of patients with occult primary tumors (cancers of unknown primary). These NCCN Guidelines Insights summarize major discussion points of the 2014 NCCN Occult Primary panel meeting. The panel discussed gene expression profiling (GEP) for the identification of the tissue of origin and concluded that, although GEP has a diagnostic benefit, a clinical benefit has not been demonstrated. The panel recommends against GEP as standard management, although 20% of the panel believes the diagnostic benefit of GEP warrants its routine use. In addition, the panel discussed testing for actionable mutations (eg, ALK) to help guide choice of therapy, but declined to add this recommendation.