Nationwide multidisciplinary consensus on the clinical management of Merkel cell carcinoma: a Delphi panel

June 18, 2022


Journal for Immunotherapy of Cancer

Publication Date

June 18, 2022


Francesca Spada, Paolo Bossi, Corrado Caracò, Vanna Chiarion Sileni, Angelo Paolo Dei Tos, Nicola Fazio, Giovanni Grignani, Michele Maio, Pietro Quaglino, Paola Queirolo, Paolo Antonio Ascierto, DELPHI Panel Members Summary

This publication reflects expert opinion among experts in one country (Italy) as to optimal management of MCC. Although areas of controversy were identified as expected, there was high agreement that immune therapy for MCC makes sense in advanced cases, and that radiation therapy plays an important role in the optimal management of MCC. Also similar to the NCCN guidelines in the US, there was consensus that multi-disciplinary discussion is essential for optimal management of Merkel cell carcinoma in most cases.


Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is a rare and highly aggressive cutaneous neuroendocrine carcinoma. The MCC incidence rate has rapidly grown over the last years, with Italy showing the highest increase among European countries. This malignancy has been the focus of active scientific research over the last years, focusing mainly on pathogenesis, new therapeutic trials and diagnosis. A national expert board developed 28 consensus statements that delineated the evolution of disease management and highlighted the paradigm shift towards the use of immunological strategies, which were then presented to a national MCC specialists panel for review. Sixty-five panelists answered both rounds of the questionnaire. The statements were divided into five areas: a high level of agreement was reached in the area of guidelines and multidisciplinary management, even if in real life the multidisciplinary team was not always represented by all the specialists. In the diagnostic pathway area, imaging played a crucial role in diagnosis and initial staging, planning for surgery or radiation therapy, assessment of treatment response and surveillance of recurrence and metastases. Concerning diagnosis, the usefulness of Merkel cell polyomavirus is recognized, but the agreement and consensus regarding the need for cytokeratin evaluation appears greater. Regarding the areas of clinical management and follow-up, patients with MCC require customized treatment. There was a wide dispersion of results and the suggestion to increase awareness about the adjuvant radiation therapy. The panelists unanimously agreed that the information concerning avelumab provided by the JAVELIN Merkel 200 study is adequate and reliable and that the expanded access program data could have concrete clinical implications. An immunocompromised patient with advanced MCC can be treated with immunotherapy after multidisciplinary risk/benefit assessment, as evidenced by real-world analysis and highlighted in the guidelines. A very high consensus regarding the addition of radiotherapy to treat the ongoing focal progression of immunotherapy was observed. This paper emphasizes the importance of collaboration and communication among the interprofessional team members and encourages managing patients with MCC within dedicated multidisciplinary teams. New insights in the treatment of this challenging cancer needs the contribution of many and different experts.

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