Systematic literature review of current treatments for stage I-III Merkel cell carcinoma

Future Oncol. 2021 Dec;17(34):4813-4822. doi: 10.2217/fon-2021-0574. Epub 2021 Sep 8.


Aim: There is a need to evaluate current treatments for stages I-III of Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC). Materials & methods: A systematic literature review was conducted to understand how patients with stage I-III MCC are treated and assess efficacy, safety, health-related quality of life and economic impact of current therapies. Embase was searched using the following inclusion criteria: publications from 2014 to 2019, in English, with adult patients (≥18 years) with early-stage MCC (i.e., stages I-III) and any interventions/comparators. Publications were excluded if they included only patients with stage IV MCC, had no distinction between early and advanced or metastatic MCC or had no extractable data. Results: A total of 18 retrospective studies were included. Few studies had evidence that surgery plus adjuvant radiotherapy significantly increased survival versus surgery alone in early MCC. Limited safety data were reported in three studies. None of the studies reported data on health-related quality of life or economic impact of treatment in patients with early-stage MCC. Conclusion: Although surgery plus adjuvant radiotherapy was a common treatment, no clear standard of care exists for stages I-III MCC and treatment outcomes need to be improved. All studies were retrospective with a high variability in sample sizes; hence, findings should be interpreted with caution.

Keywords: Merkel cell carcinoma; early-stage disease; efficacy; safety; systematic literature review.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Merkel Cell / diagnosis
  • Carcinoma, Merkel Cell / mortality
  • Carcinoma, Merkel Cell / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Merkel Cell / therapy*
  • Dermatologic Surgical Procedures / statistics & numerical data*
  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Humans
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / epidemiology*
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / prevention & control
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Quality of Life
  • Radiotherapy, Adjuvant / statistics & numerical data
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy
  • Skin / pathology
  • Skin Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Skin Neoplasms / mortality
  • Skin Neoplasms / pathology
  • Skin Neoplasms / therapy*