Our team based in Seattle conducted a comprehensive review including evolving trends in the management of Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC). This summary covers key decision points, including recommended work-up during initial diagnosis, treatment options for MCC when it’s in one place or has spread, management of recurrent MCC, and new treatments that are showing promise with fewer side effects and good results. This review gives valuable information on how to handle MCC overall and emphasizes new methods that are effective and less toxic on patients.
Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is an aggressive neuroendocrine skin cancer with poorly characterized genetics. We performed high resolution comparative genomic hybridization on 25 MCC specimens using a high-density oligonucleotide microarray. Tumors frequently carried extra copies of chromosomes 1, 3q, 5p, and 6 and lost chromosomes 3p, 4, 5q, 7, 10, and 13. MCC tumors with less genomic aberration were associated with improved survival (P=0.04). Tumors from 13 of 22 MCC patients had detectable Merkel cell polyomavirus DNA, and these tumors had fewer genomic deletions. Three regions of genomic alteration were of particular interest: a deletion of 5q12-21 occurred in 26% of tumors, a deletion of 13q14-21 was recurrent in 26% of tumors and contains the well-characterized tumor suppressor RB1, and a previously unreported focal amplification at 1p34 was present in 39% of tumors and centers on L-Myc (MYCL1). L-Myc is related to the c-Myc proto-oncogene, has transforming activity, and is amplified in the closely related small cell lung cancer. Normal skin showed no L-Myc expression, whereas 4/4 MCC specimens tested expressed L-Myc RNA in relative proportion to the DNA copy number gain. These findings suggest several genes that may contribute to MCC pathogenesis, most notably L-Myc.