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Modern management of Merkel cell carcinoma

Huber, Gerhard F.

Current Opinion in Otolaryngology & Head & Neck Surgery: April 2014 - Volume 22 - Issue 2 - p 109–115
doi: 10.1097/MOO.0000000000000029
HEAD AND NECK ONCOLOGY: Edited by Piero Nicolai and Cesare Piazza

Purpose of review: Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is a rare, aggressive malignancy. Worldwide incidence is increasing and roughly 50% of patients present with a primary lesion in the head and neck. This article discusses recent advances and treatment recommendations.

Recent findings: Recent research has focused on the carcinogenesis of MCC, in particular the role of Merkel cell polyoma virus (MCPyV) and its surrogate marker large T-antigen. Together with cytokeratin 20 (CK20), other biomarkers like human insulin gene enhancer-binding protein islet-1 (ISL1) and transcription factor OCT4 may provide improved methods for diagnosis and ultimately, therapy.

Summary: This review summarizes recent findings on MCC pathogenesis with a special emphasis on the impact of MCPyV. It further presents an overview of clinical aspects, and discusses treatment standards and emerging perspectives.

ENT-Department, Head and Neck Surgery, Zurich, Switzerland

Correspondence to Priv.-Doz. Dr med. Gerhard F. Huber, ENT-Department, Head and Neck Surgery, Frauenklinikstrasse 24, CH-8091 Zurich, Switzerland. Tel: +41 44 255 5860/1; e-mail:

© 2014 Wolters Kluwer Health | Lippincott Williams & Wilkins