Understanding the influence of patient demographics on disease severity, treatment strategy, and survival outcomes in merkel cell carcinoma: a surveillance, epidemiology, and end-results study

Harib H. Ezaldein1,3, Alessandra Ventura2, Nicolaas P. DeRuyter1, Emily S. Yin3 and Alessandro Giunta2

1University of Washington, Department of Surgery, Seattle, Washington

2University of Rome Tor Vergata, Department of Dermatology, Rome, Italy

3Yale University School of Medicine, Department of Dermatology, New Haven, Connecticut

Correspondence to:

Harib H. Ezaldein, email: harib.ezaldein@uhhospitals.org

Keywords: merkel cell carcinoma, outcomes, socioeconomic, SEER database, nationwide study

Received: May 24, 2017     Accepted: June 23, 2017     Published: September 14, 2017


Objective: To identify trends in patient presentation and outcomes data that may guide the development of clinical algorithms on Merkel Cell Carcinoma (MCC).

Methods: We performed a retrospective cohort study searching in the National Cancer Institute’s SEER registry for documented MCC cases from 1986-2013. No exclusion criteria were applied. We hereby identified 7,831 original MCC entries. Demographics, staging, and socioeconomic characteristics were identified and treatment modality likelihoods and survival data were calculated via logistic regression and Kaplan-Meier statistical modeling.

Results: Concerning tumor localization, 44.5% (n= 3,485) were located on the head and neck, and 47.8% were located on the trunk and extremities (n= 3,742). Male and younger patients are more likely to receive radiation than surgery with no differences seen among patient race. Caucasians and “Other” races both showed higher overall survival than African American patients. States with higher median household income levels demonstrated survival advantage. Income quartiles yielded no differences in surgical or radiotherapy interventions. Moreover, patients who forego radiotherapy had a poorer overall survival.

Limitations: Generalizability of SEER data, potential intrinsic coding inconsistencies, and limited information on patient comorbidities, sentinel lymph node and surgical margin status are major limitations. There is no information regarding medical intervention such as systemic chemotherapy or immunotherapy. Recoding efforts are inconclusive regarding variables such as tumor infiltrating lymphocytes, mutations, or immunosuppression status, which are well-documented for other cancers within the database.

Conclusion: MCC lesions of the head and neck region, lower income quartiles, and African American race are associated with higher mortality. MCC patients have a median household income that is significantly higher than national values with no significant difference in subsequent treatment modalities (surgery or radiotherapy) based on socioeconomic markers. A lack of radiotherapy is associated with higher mortality.

PII: 358