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Mast Cells Have Prognostic Value in Merkel Cell Carcinoma

Beer, Trevor W MBChB, FRC Path, FRCPA*; Ng, Lydia B MBBS; Murray, Kevin BSc, MSc

The American Journal of Dermatopathology: February 2008 - Volume 30 - Issue 1 - p 27-30
doi: 10.1097/DAD.0b013e31815c932a
Original Article

We examined the role of mast cell infiltrates and other clinical and histological factors in the prognosis of Merkel cell carcinoma. Mast cells were stained immunohistochemically in 36 Merkel cell carcinomas with an antibody to tryptase. The number of stainable cells was quantified within the tumors and surrounding stroma. Other clinical and histological parameters were examined, statistically analyzed, and compared to subsequent clinical course and prognosis. Patient prognosis was worse with higher tumor mast cell numbers (P < 0.002). Prognosis was also found to be adversely affected by the presence of lymphovascular invasion (P = 0.03) and increased tumor size (P = 0.05). Increased mast cells counts, tumor size, and lymphovascular invasion are associated with an adverse prognosis in Merkel cell carcinomas. Evaluation of mast cell infiltrates may provide useful prognostic data and ultimately could assist in selecting patients that require adjuvant treatment in this aggressive form of skin cancer.

From *Cutaneous Pathology, Nedlands, Western Australia, Australia; †Department of Anatomical Pathology, St John of God Hospital, Subiaco, Australia; and ‡School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Western Australia, Crawley, Western Australia.

Reprints: Dr. Trevor W. Beer, MBChB, MRCPath, FRCPA, Cutaneous Pathology, Nedlands, WA 6009, Australia (e-mail:

© 2008 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.