Treatment Options for Merkel Cell Carcinoma

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  • 1 Department of Surgery, University of Alabama at Birmingham Comprehensive Cancer Center, Birmingham, Alabama

Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) or neuroendocrine carcinoma of the skin is uncommon, often aggressive, and has a poor prognosis. Complete surgical excision with histologic documentation of clear resection margins is recommended for the primary cancer. Retrospective analysis of clinical data strongly suggests that adjuvant radiotherapy improves local control of MCC, but no evidence has been published that it prolongs survival. Sentinel lymph node biopsy is a useful method of determining the need for regional lymph node dissection in stage I patients. Chemotherapy regimens similar to those employed for small cell carcinoma of the lung have been recommended for advanced MCC. Patients often show an initial response to therapy, but it is usually short-lived. The three-year overall survival for patients with MCC is 31%. Before an improvement in long-term survival can be realized, early detection, appropriate use of surgery and radiation therapy, and the development of effective systemic chemotherapy are required.

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Correspondence: Samuel W. Beenken, MD, University of Alabama at Birmingham Comprehensive Cancer Center, 1824 6th Avenue South, WTI-620, Birmingham, AL 35294-3300. E-mail: Samuel.beenken@ccc.uab.edu
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