Recurrence after complete resection and selective use of adjuvant therapy for stage i through III Merkel cell carcinoma

Ryan C. Fields, Klaus J. Busam, Joanne F. Chou, Katherine S. Panageas, Melissa P. Pulitzer, Peter J. Allen, Dennis H. Kraus, Mary S. Brady, Daniel G. Coit

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

73 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is a rare cutaneous neuroendocrine neoplasm whose natural history is poorly understood. Here, the authors describe their experience with a large cohort of patients who were treated at a single institution to describe patterns of recurrence after curative therapy. METHODS: Review of a prospective database was performed. Patient-related, tumor-related, and treatment-related variables were recorded, and the site and timing of initial recurrence were recorded. Factors associated with receipt of adjuvant therapy and recurrence were determined. RESULTS: In total, 364 patients with stage I through III MCC who underwent complete resection were identified. Adjuvant local radiation therapy (RT), lymph node RT, and chemotherapy were received selectively by 23%, 23%, and 15% of patients, respectively. Factors associated with the receipt of adjuvant therapy included younger age, primary tumor features (larger size, lymphovascular invasion [LVI], positive margin excision), and increasing pathologic stage. With median follow-up of 3.6 years, 108 patients (30%) developed a recurrence, including 11 local recurrences (3%), 12 in-transit recurrences (3%), 43 lymph node recurrences (12%), and 42 distant recurrences (12%). Clinically involved lymph nodes, primary tumor LVI, and a history of leukemia/lymphoma were predictive of recurrence. The majority of recurrences (80%) occurred in patients who had clinically involved lymph nodes or patients who did not undergo pathologic lymph node evaluation. CONCLUSIONS: A low recurrence rate in patients with clinically lymph node-negative MCC was achieved with adequate surgery (including sentinel lymph node biopsy) and the selective use of adjuvant RT for high-risk tumors. In contrast, patients with clinically lymph node-positive MCC had significantly higher rates of recurrence, especially distant recurrence. The authors concluded that contemporary natural history studies are critical in designing treatment pathways and clinical trials for MCC.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3311-3320
Number of pages10
Issue number13
StatePublished - Jul 1 2012


  • Chemotherapy
  • Merkel cell carcinoma
  • Outcomes
  • Radiation therapy
  • Recurrence
  • Surgery
  • Treatment


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