The Merkel cell carcinoma challenge: A review from the fine needle aspiration service

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Abstract

Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is a highly aggressive neuroendocrine carcinoma of the skin that occurs primarily in elderly or immunocompromised patients. For this report, the authors reviewed the diagnostic challenges associated with MCC encountered on their fine-needle aspiration (FNA) service and also conducted an in-depth review of the literature on MCC. A computer search for patients who were diagnosed with MCC by FNA at the authors' institution from 2006 to 2010 was conducted, and 5 patients were selected for cytologic and immunochemical analyses based on their varied and diagnostically challenging clinical presentations. The 5 selected patients had clinical findings commonly associated with MCC, including advanced age (4 of the 5 patients were ages 75-85 years) and a history of previous malignancies (3 of the 5 patients had a history of previous malignancy), and 1 patient was diagnosed with a concomitant low-grade lymphoma. The patients and their disease illustrated the protean clinical presentation of MCC and the clinical and cytologic challenges associated with this neoplasm. The current findings indicate the need for cytopathologists to be aware of the deceptive presentation of this neoplasm and its cytologic and immunochemical features to correctly diagnose this insidious neoplasm.

Merkel cell carcinoma that presents in an unusual clinical fashion or has unusual morphology poses unique diagnostic challenges. In this review, the authors present some interesting cases of this highly aggressive neoplasm that were encountered in the fine-needle aspiration service, and they review the current thinking given the new light shed on the biology of this neoplasm.

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