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Transplantation. 1999 Dec 15;68(11):1717-21.

Merkel's cell carcinoma in organ recipients: report of 41 cases.

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  • 1Department of Surgery, University of Cincinnati, Ohio 45267-0558, USA. penni@email.uc.edu


In the general population Merkel's cell carcinoma (MCC) is an aggressive neuroendocrine skin cancer. More than 600 cases have been reported. MCC seems to be common in transplant recipients, with 41 cases being reported to the Cincinnati Transplant Tumor Registry, and another 11 in the transplant literature. In the general population, it is a disease of older adults, with only 51% of cases occurring below the age of 50 years. In transplant patients, the mean age at diagnosis was 53 (range 33-78) years, and 29% of recipients were <50 years old. The tumor appeared from 5 to 286 (mean 91.5) months after the transplant. Of 44 lesions that occurred in 41 patients, the distribution was similar to that seen in the general population, with 36% occurring on the head and neck, 32% on the upper extremities, 16% on the trunk, 9% at unknown sites, and 7% on the lower extremities. Twenty of the patients (49%) had 22 other malignancies, the great majority of which (91%) were other skin cancers. Treatment depended on the stage of the disease and included wide surgical excision, radical lymph node dissection, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. In transplant patients, MCC probably proved to be more aggressive than in the general population in that 68% of patients developed lymph node metastases and 56% died of their malignancies. Furthermore, one third of surviving patients still have active cancers from which they may die. Also, follow-up of survivors has been relatively short, with a mean of only 18 (range 0-135) months.

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