Merkel cell carcinoma is a relatively rare neuroendocrine carcinoma of the skin. It arises in the head and neck region in approximately 50% of cases. Its aggressive behavior predisposes patients to local-regional recurrence and distant metastases after surgical excision alone. In this article, we describe our experience with Merkel cell carcinoma of the head and neck. Of 18 patients with Merkel cell carcinoma treated in the Department of Radiation Oncology at the University of Florida, 12 patients who had primary tumors in the head and neck region are reported. Eight patients were treated at initial diagnosis (group A), and four were treated at the time of local-regional recurrence (group B). Local-regional control was achieved in seven of eight patients in group A and all four patients in group B. One patient in group A and all patients in group B developed distant metastases and eventually died of their disease. Bone exposure developed in one patient, requiring surgical debridement and hyperbaric oxygen treatment. Patients with Merkel cell carcinoma of the head and neck should be treated aggressively. Our data suggest that local-regional recurrence is a harbinger of distant metastases. We recommend that these patients receive treatment to both the primary site and draining lymphatics at initial presentation. The role of chemotherapy remains unclear.

Suntharalingam, Rudoltz, Mendenhall, Parsons, Stringer, Million, , , (). Radiotherapy for Merkel cell carcinoma of the skin of the head and neck. Head & neck, ;17(2):96-101. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7558819