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Oral Surg Oral Med Oral Pathol. 1992 Aug;74(2):193-200.

Merkel cell carcinoma of the labial mucosa. An immunohistochemical and ultrastructural study with a review of the literature on oral Merkel cell carcinomas.

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Department of Oral Pathology, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA.


Merkel cell carcinoma is a rare cutaneous neuroendocrine tumor that occurs predominantly in the head and neck region of older patients. An 88-year-old white man had an erythematous, umbilicated tumor on his lower lip, which on histopathologic examination showed solid sheets of infiltrating basaloid round cells with a high mitotic index. Globular, paranuclear immunostaining for low-molecular-weight cytokeratins (Nos. 8, 18, and 19) and neurofilament was observed. On ultrastructural examination, the tumor cells demonstrated paranuclear whorls of intermediate filament aggregates and occasional electron-dense granules. This unique cytokeratin- and neurofilament-staining pattern with coexpression enabled the Merkel cell carcinoma to be differentiated from other small cell malignant tumors that included metastatic neuroendocrine carcinomas from other regions. The follow-up 1 year after surgery and radiation showed that the patient remained disease free. Review of the literature revealed 11 cases of oral Merkel cell carcinomas with a predilection for the labial mucosa of older men. The mode of treatment and the clinical course of these cases are also presented, with an update on therapeutic management of Merkel cell carcinomas.

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