Background: Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is a rare cutaneous neoplasm with increasing incidence, aggressive behavior and poor prognosis. Somatostatin receptors (SSTR) are expressed in MCC and represent a potential target for both imaging and treatment.
Methods: To non-invasively assess SSTR expression in MCC using PET and the radiotracers [68Ga]DOTA-D-Phe1-Tyr3-octreotide (DOTATOC) or -octreotate (DOTATATE) as surrogate for tumor burden. In 24 patients with histologically proven MCC SSTR-PET was performed and compared to results of computed tomography (CT).
Results: SSTR-PET detected primary and metastatic MCC lesions. On a patient-based analysis, sensitivity of SSTR-PET was 73% for nodal metastases, 100% for bone, and 67% for soft-tissue metastases, respectively. Notably, brain metastases were initially detected by SSTR-PET in 2 patients, whereas liver and lung metastases were diagnosed exclusively by CT. SSTR-PET showed concordance to CT results in 20 out of 24 patients. Four patients (17%) were up-staged due to SSTR-PET and patient management was changed in 3 patients (13%).
Conclusion: SSTR-PET showed high sensitivity for imaging bone, soft tissue and brain metastases, and particularly in combination with CT had a significant impact on clinical stage and patient management.