Merkel cell carcinoma: mitoses, expression of Ki-67 and bcl-2 correlate with disease progression

J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2015 Mar;29(3):542-8. doi: 10.1111/jdv.12626. Epub 2014 Aug 4.


Background: There are conflicting data on markers of disease progression and outcome of Merkel cell carcinoma.

Objective: We suggest to review histological and various immunohistochemical features of Merkel cell carcinoma specimens, in order to identify prognostic markers of clinical relevance.

Methods: We collected paraffin-embedded blocks from primary tumours from 26 patients diagnosed with Merkel cell carcinoma and determined the following: type and size of the tumour, number of mitoses, proliferation rate (Ki-67 antibody), (anti)-apoptosis rate (bcl-2, p53, p63 antibodies) and lymphatic vessel invasion (D2-40 antibody for podoplanin). Two authors blinded to clinical outcome, independently assessed and scored all samples. The findings were correlated with tumour progression, which was determined by local recurrence, lymph node- or distant metastases.

Results: During the average follow-up period of 63.4 months 12 (46%) patients had disease progression. Statistical analysis revealed Ki-67-staining (P = 0.005) as a marker of disease progression, high number of mitoses (P = 0.026) correlated with lymph node metastasis, while a tendency for increased Bcl-2 expression (P = 0.064) was found in patients with local recurrence. A higher number of invaded lymphatic capillaries showed a tendency in correlation with metastases (P = 0.072).

Conclusion: The findings indicate that high numbers of mitoses, proliferation and survival of tumour cells as marked by Ki-67- and Bcl-2-staining, and infiltration of lymphatic vessels, might correlate with the biological behaviour of Merkel cell carcinoma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Carcinoma, Merkel Cell / immunology
  • Carcinoma, Merkel Cell / metabolism
  • Carcinoma, Merkel Cell / pathology*
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Ki-67 Antigen / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mitosis*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / metabolism*
  • Skin Neoplasms / immunology
  • Skin Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Skin Neoplasms / pathology*


  • Ki-67 Antigen
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2