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 a neuroendocrine skin cancer with a higher propensity for recurrence and metastasis than melanoma or squamous cell carcinoma. Despite aggressive behavior and the tripling of its reported incidence in the past 20 years, there is extensive confusion about how MCC should be managed. Here we address two issues that have impeded optimal MCC management: lack of a consensus staging system and lack of unique diagnostic codes for MCC. Five conflicting systems currently used to stage MCC will be replaced by one system in 2010 that will diminish confusion about prognosis and management among physicians and patients. The diagnostic bundling of MCC with numerous less aggressive skin cancers leads to care refusals by insurance and an inability to track MCC care costs. Worldwide adoption in 2009 of specific diagnostic codes for MCC will also improve understanding and management of this often-lethal skin cancer.