Postoperative Radiotherapy in Stage I-III Merkel Cell Carcinoma

Sonja Levy*, Stephanie A Blankenstein, Dirk Jan Grünhagen, Mathilde Jalving, Olga Hamming-Vrieze, Lukas B Been, Lisa Tans, Alexander C J van Akkooi, Margot E T Tesselaar

*Corresponding author for this work

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BACKGROUND: Postoperative radiotherapy (PORT) is currently recommended for the treatment of Merkel cell carcinoma. Nevertheless, deviations occur frequently due to the generally elderly and frail patient population. We aimed to evaluate the influence of PORT on survival in stage I-III MCC patients treated in the Netherlands.

METHODS: Patients were included retrospectively between 2013 and 2018. Fine-Gray method was used for cumulative incidence of recurrence and MCC-related survival, cox regression was performed for overall survival (OS). Analyses were performed in patients with clinical (sentinel node biopsy [SN] not performed) stage I/II (c-I/II-MCC), pathologic (SN negative) stage I/II (p-I/II-MCC) and stage III MCC (III-MCC), separately. Propensity score matching (PSM) was performed to assess confounding by indication.

RESULTS: In total 182 patients were included, 35 had p-I/II-MCC, 69 had c-I/II-MCC and 78 had III-MCC. Median follow up time was 53.5 (IQR 33.4-67.4), 30.5 (13.0-43.6) and 29.3 (19.3-51.0) months, respectively. Multivariable analysis showed PORT to be associated with less recurrences and improved OS, but not with MCC-related survival. In stage III-MCC, extracapsular extension (sub-distribution hazard [SDH] 4.09, p=0.012) and PORT (SDH 0.45, p=0.044) were associated with recurrence, and ≥4 positive lymph nodes (SDH 3.24, p=0.024) were associated with MCC-related survival.

CONCLUSIONS: PORT was associated with less recurrences and improved OS in patients with stage I-III MCC, but not with improved MCC-related survival. Trends in OS benefit are likely to be caused by selection bias suggesting further refinement of criteria for PORT is warranted, for instance by taking life expectancy into account.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)203-211
Number of pages9
JournalRadiotherapy and Oncology
Early online date25-Nov-2021
Publication statusPublished - Jan-2022

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