Merkel Cell Carcinoma Treatment in Finland in 1986-2016-A Real-World Data Study

Cancers (Basel). 2020 May 13;12(5):1224. doi: 10.3390/cancers12051224.


Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is a rare cutaneous carcinoma that has gained enormous interest since the discovery of Merkel cell polyoma virus, which is a causative oncogenic agent in the majority of MCC tumours. Increased research has focused on effective treatment options with immuno-oncology. In this study, we reviewed the real-world data on different treatments given to MCC patients in Finland in 1986-2016. We used the Finnish Cancer Registry database to find MCC patients and the Hospital Discharge Register and the Cause-of-Death Register to obtain treatment data. We identified 376 MCC patients and 33 different treatment entities and/or combinations of treatment. An increase was noted in the incidence of MCC since 2005. Therefore, the cohort was divided into two groups: the "early" group with time of diagnosis between years 1986 and 2004 and the "late" group with time of diagnosis between 2005 and 2016. The multitude of different treatment combinations is a relatively new phenomenon; before the year 2005, only 11 treatments or treatment combinations were used for MCC patients. Our data show that combining radiation therapy with simple excision provided a survival advantage, which was, however, lost after adjustment for stage or age. Our registry study serves as a baseline treatment efficacy comparison as we move into the age of immunotherapy in MCC. Standardizing the treatment of MCC patients in Finland requires more work on awareness and multidisciplinary co-operation.

Keywords: Merkel cell carcinoma; immunotherapy; multidisciplinary communication; radiation therapy; surgical intervention; survival; treatment.