Danger is only skin deep: aggressive epidermal carcinomas. An overview of the diagnosis, demographics, molecular-genetics, staging, prognostic biomarkers, and therapeutic advances in Merkel cell carcinoma

Michael T. Tetzlaff, Paul W. Harms

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

Abstract

Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is a high grade primary cutaneous neuroendocrine carcinoma and is among the most aggressive cutaneous malignancies. The rising incidence of MCC, together with its often rapidly aggressive course, underscore a critical need to recognize the histopathologic and the immunohistochemical features that inform its accurate diagnosis. In the current review, we summarize the current state of knowledge regarding the accurate diagnosis of MCC and the exclusion of other entities in the differential diagnosis. We provide a comprehensive review of genomic studies that identified the molecular-genetic drivers of MCC as well as a summary of studies identifying prognostic biomarkers that can facilitate risk stratification. Importantly, Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCPyV) appears to be causative in most cases of MCC and represents both a diagnostic and prognostic marker. Finally, as staging of MCC has undergone critical refinements with the introduction of the 8th Edition of the American Joint Committee on Cancer staging system, we provide an update on MCC staging. In particular, the prognostic significance of the sentinel lymph node (SLN) in MCC necessitates a systematic approach to its evaluation and diagnosis to ensure accurate and consistent risk stratification for patients, and we therefore provide a comprehensive overview of SLN evaluation in MCC. Finally, the intimate relationship between MCC and the integrity of the host immune system has led to paradigm-shifting therapeutic advances with the successful application of immune checkpoint blockade to treat patients with advanced disease, and we therefore summarize those studies and the correlative studies in which predictive biomarkers have been identified.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)42-55
Number of pages14
JournalModern Pathology
Volume33
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020

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Merkel Cell Carcinoma
Molecular Biology
Biomarkers
Demography
Carcinoma
Skin
Therapeutics
Merkel cell polyomavirus
Neuroendocrine Carcinoma
Neoplasm Staging
Immune System
Differential Diagnosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine

Cite this

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title = "Danger is only skin deep: aggressive epidermal carcinomas. An overview of the diagnosis, demographics, molecular-genetics, staging, prognostic biomarkers, and therapeutic advances in Merkel cell carcinoma",
abstract = "Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is a high grade primary cutaneous neuroendocrine carcinoma and is among the most aggressive cutaneous malignancies. The rising incidence of MCC, together with its often rapidly aggressive course, underscore a critical need to recognize the histopathologic and the immunohistochemical features that inform its accurate diagnosis. In the current review, we summarize the current state of knowledge regarding the accurate diagnosis of MCC and the exclusion of other entities in the differential diagnosis. We provide a comprehensive review of genomic studies that identified the molecular-genetic drivers of MCC as well as a summary of studies identifying prognostic biomarkers that can facilitate risk stratification. Importantly, Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCPyV) appears to be causative in most cases of MCC and represents both a diagnostic and prognostic marker. Finally, as staging of MCC has undergone critical refinements with the introduction of the 8th Edition of the American Joint Committee on Cancer staging system, we provide an update on MCC staging. In particular, the prognostic significance of the sentinel lymph node (SLN) in MCC necessitates a systematic approach to its evaluation and diagnosis to ensure accurate and consistent risk stratification for patients, and we therefore provide a comprehensive overview of SLN evaluation in MCC. Finally, the intimate relationship between MCC and the integrity of the host immune system has led to paradigm-shifting therapeutic advances with the successful application of immune checkpoint blockade to treat patients with advanced disease, and we therefore summarize those studies and the correlative studies in which predictive biomarkers have been identified.",
author = "Tetzlaff, {Michael T.} and Harms, {Paul W.}",
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N2 - Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is a high grade primary cutaneous neuroendocrine carcinoma and is among the most aggressive cutaneous malignancies. The rising incidence of MCC, together with its often rapidly aggressive course, underscore a critical need to recognize the histopathologic and the immunohistochemical features that inform its accurate diagnosis. In the current review, we summarize the current state of knowledge regarding the accurate diagnosis of MCC and the exclusion of other entities in the differential diagnosis. We provide a comprehensive review of genomic studies that identified the molecular-genetic drivers of MCC as well as a summary of studies identifying prognostic biomarkers that can facilitate risk stratification. Importantly, Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCPyV) appears to be causative in most cases of MCC and represents both a diagnostic and prognostic marker. Finally, as staging of MCC has undergone critical refinements with the introduction of the 8th Edition of the American Joint Committee on Cancer staging system, we provide an update on MCC staging. In particular, the prognostic significance of the sentinel lymph node (SLN) in MCC necessitates a systematic approach to its evaluation and diagnosis to ensure accurate and consistent risk stratification for patients, and we therefore provide a comprehensive overview of SLN evaluation in MCC. Finally, the intimate relationship between MCC and the integrity of the host immune system has led to paradigm-shifting therapeutic advances with the successful application of immune checkpoint blockade to treat patients with advanced disease, and we therefore summarize those studies and the correlative studies in which predictive biomarkers have been identified.

AB - Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is a high grade primary cutaneous neuroendocrine carcinoma and is among the most aggressive cutaneous malignancies. The rising incidence of MCC, together with its often rapidly aggressive course, underscore a critical need to recognize the histopathologic and the immunohistochemical features that inform its accurate diagnosis. In the current review, we summarize the current state of knowledge regarding the accurate diagnosis of MCC and the exclusion of other entities in the differential diagnosis. We provide a comprehensive review of genomic studies that identified the molecular-genetic drivers of MCC as well as a summary of studies identifying prognostic biomarkers that can facilitate risk stratification. Importantly, Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCPyV) appears to be causative in most cases of MCC and represents both a diagnostic and prognostic marker. Finally, as staging of MCC has undergone critical refinements with the introduction of the 8th Edition of the American Joint Committee on Cancer staging system, we provide an update on MCC staging. In particular, the prognostic significance of the sentinel lymph node (SLN) in MCC necessitates a systematic approach to its evaluation and diagnosis to ensure accurate and consistent risk stratification for patients, and we therefore provide a comprehensive overview of SLN evaluation in MCC. Finally, the intimate relationship between MCC and the integrity of the host immune system has led to paradigm-shifting therapeutic advances with the successful application of immune checkpoint blockade to treat patients with advanced disease, and we therefore summarize those studies and the correlative studies in which predictive biomarkers have been identified.

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