A Regional Survey on Merkel Cell Carcinoma: A Plea for Uniform Patient Journey Modeling and Diagnostic–Therapeutic Pathway

October 25, 2022


Current Oncology

Publication Date

October 25, 2022


Roberto M, Botticelli A, Caggiati A, Chiriatti A, Della Rocca C, Ferraresi V, Musicco F, Pellacani G, Marchetti PA

Merkelcell.org Summary

Congratulations to these Italian authors who carried out an interesting survey of Merkel cell carcinoma management by over 300 ‘front-line’ physicians from the region of Italy that includes Rome. Among the 10 figures included in the survey, they depict the common dilemmas faced by most physicians who do not regularly manage MCC. Margin size? Radiation? Most do not have a multi-disciplinary tumor board to go to for consultative advice. A plea is made to move to guidelines and to seek out collaborative multidisciplinary care.


Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is a rare and aggressive cutaneous neuroendocrine cancer that usually affects the elderly and immunosuppressed in sun-exposed areas. Due to its rarity, it is frequently unrecognized, and its management is not standardized across medical centers, despite the more recent availability of immunotherapy, with avelumab as first-line treatment improving the prognosis even in advanced stages of disease. We conducted a purpose-designed survey of a selected sample of physicians working in the Lazio region, in Italy, to assess their awareness and knowledge of MCC as well as their perspective on assisted diagnostic and therapeutic pathways. The Lazio region, and in particular Rome, is one of the most important academic and non- academic center in Italy dedicated to the diagnosis and treatment of skin cancer. A total of 368 doctors (including 100 general practitioners, 72 oncologists, 87 dermatologists, 59 surgeons, and 50 anatomopathologists) agreed to be part of this survey. Surgeons, oncologists, and dermatologists thought themselves significantly more updated on MCC than primary care physicians, but more than half of the interviewees are interested in CCM training courses and training with clearer and more standardized care pathways. Significant differences have been reported from survey participants in terms of multidisciplinary team set up for MCC management. The identification of specialized centers and the improvement of communication pathways among different specialties, as well as between patients and physicians, could be very beneficial in improving patients’ journey modeling and starting a uniform diagnostic and therapeutic pathway for MCC patients in the new era of immunotherapies.
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