Annals of Surgical Oncology

, 16:2985 | Cite as

Single-Institution Series of Early-Stage Merkel Cell Carcinoma: Long-Term Outcomes in 95 Patients Managed with Surgery Alone

  • Emilio Bajetta
  • Luigi Celio
  • Marco Platania
  • Salvatore Lo Vullo
  • Roberto Patuzzo
  • Andrea Maurichi
  • Mario Santinami



To determine the long-term outcomes of early-stage Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) patients managed with surgery alone.


Ninety-five consecutive patients were reviewed. Patients were treated by wide local excision. Clinically negative regional nodes were either followed up (n = 42) or staged with sentinel lymph node biopsy (n = 21), and clinically positive nodes underwent lymph node dissection (n = 32).


Median follow-up was 65 months. A total of 45 (47%) patients relapsed, with 80% of the recurrences occurring within 2 years and 96% within 5 years. The 5-year crude cumulative incidence (CCI) of recurrence and disease-specific survival (DSS) were 52% and 67%, respectively. CCI of local 5-year recurrence was 5% for the study cohort. Patients with MCC in the head and neck region had a 5-year local-recurrence CCI of 19%, and patients with MCC in the extremity and trunk region had a 5-year local-recurrence CCI of 2% (P = 0.007). Comparing patients with ≤ 2 versus > 2 metastatic lymph nodes, the 5-year regional-recurrence CCI was 0% versus 39% (P = 0.004). The 5-year distant-recurrence CCI was higher in clinically node-positive patients compared with node-negative patients (37% versus 12%; P = 0.005). Patients with MCC in the head and neck region experienced no distant recurrences, patients with MCC in the extremity and trunk region had a 5-year distant-recurrence CCI of 22%, and patients with occult primary had a 5-year distant-recurrence CCI of 49% (P = 0.023). The 5-year DSS rate was 80% for pathologically node-negative patients.


The prognosis for surgically managed early-stage MCC is variable. Thus multidisciplinary tumor-board consultation is needed to optimize individual patient management.



The authors would like to thank the ITMO scientific service for data management and assistance in editing the manuscript. Special thanks are due to Dr. Arpine Gevorgyan for her skilful assistance in writing the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Society of Surgical Oncology 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Emilio Bajetta
    • 1
  • Luigi Celio
    • 1
  • Marco Platania
    • 1
  • Salvatore Lo Vullo
    • 2
  • Roberto Patuzzo
    • 3
  • Andrea Maurichi
    • 3
  • Mario Santinami
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of MedicineFondazione IRCCS “Istituto Nazionale Tumori”MilanItaly
  2. 2.Unit of Medical Statistics and BiometryFondazione IRCCS “Istituto Nazionale Tumori”MilanItaly
  3. 3.Department of SurgeryFondazione IRCCS “Istituto Nazionale Tumori”MilanItaly

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