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Lancet Oncol. 2004 Oct;5(10):593-9.

Merkel-cell carcinoma of the skin.

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Southern Zone Radiation Oncology Service-Mater Centre, Queensland, Australia. <>


Merkel-cell carcinoma (MCC) is a rare form of skin cancer of neuroendocrine origin that has been described as the most aggressive cutaneous malignancy. The cell of origin is thought to be the Merkel cell or skin-pressure receptor. It has the propensity for dermal-lymphatic invasion, and nodal and haematogenous spread. Factors that have been implicated in its cause include exposure to sunlight and immunosuppression. The tumour has many similarities to small-cell carcinoma of the lung, with intrinsic sensitivity to ionising radiation and chemotherapy, and an aggressive metastatic potential. The best treatment outcomes can be achieved with early diagnosis and the integration of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. The treatment challenges for the clinician are often enormous because many of the patients are elderly and because lesions occur in difficult sites such as the head and neck region and the lower leg.

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