Approximately one-third of Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) patients eventually develop distant metastatic disease. Little is known about whether the location of the primary lesion is predictive of initial distant metastatic site, or if survival likelihood differs depending on the metastatic site. Such data could inform imaging/surveillance practices and improve prognostic accuracy. Multivariate and competing-risk analyses were performed on a cohort of 215 MCC patients with distant metastases, 31% of whom had two or more initial sites of distant metastasis. At time of initial distant metastasis in the 215 patients, metastatic sites (n = 305) included non-regional lymph nodes (present in 41% of patients), skin/body wall (25%), liver (23%), bone (21%), pancreas (8%), lung (7%), and brain (5%). Among the 194 patients who presented with MCC limited to local or regional sites (stage I-III) but who ultimately developed distant metastases, distant progression occurred in 49% by 1 year and in 80% by 2 years following initial diagnosis. Primary MCC locations differed in how likely they were to metastasize to specific organs/sites (P < .001). For example, liver metastases were far more likely from a head/neck primary (43% of 58 patients) versus a lower limb primary (5% of 39 patients; P < .0001). Skin-only distant metastasis was associated with lower MCC-specific mortality as compared to metastases in multiple organs/sites (HR 2.7; P = .003), in the liver (HR 2.1; P = .05), or in distant lymph nodes (HR 2.0; P = .045). These data reflect outcomes before PD1-pathway inhibitor availability, which may positively impact survival. In conclusion, primary MCC location is associated with a pattern of distant spread, which may assist in optimizing surveillance. Because it is linked to survival, the site of initial distant metastasis should be considered when assessing prognosis.
Merkel cell carcinoma can be indolent: A case with 7 locoregional recurrences over 15 years highlights the importance of patient-tailored management
Patients who experience a recurrence of their Merkel cell carcinoma are often treated aggressively. We report a case of a man with an unusually long course of MCC over 15 years who had his MCC recur around his face or neck 7 times before eventually developing distant spread. Because he had 4 major medical problems at the time his MCC initially appeared, less aggressive therapies were chosen for his recurrences, and there was no evidence of disease for the vast majority of his 15-year course, during which he enjoyed excellent quality of life. This case emphasizes the importance of customizing care in MCC to give patients the best quality and quantity of life possible in their particular situation.