Therapy of metastasized Merkel cell carcinoma with liposomal doxorubicin in combination with radiotherapy

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Merkel cell carcinoma is a rare skin cancer of neuroendocrine origin, which is characterized by a high rate of recurrence, metastatic spread and mortality. Because of its rarity, evidence-based therapeutic regimens are difficult to establish. Merkel cell carcinoma is known to be both radio- and chemosensitive. Toxicity is a key factor in assessing any regimen, as the patients are usually elderly and likely to have other significant medical problems.

Patients and Methods:

We retrospectively evaluated five patients with metastatic Merkel cell carcinoma to see if liposomal doxorubicin (Caelyx® or Myocet®) in combination with radiotherapy exhibited clinical anti-tumoral effects accompanied by acceptable side effects.


The outpatient chemotherapy regimen was tolerated without major side effects and produced good response rates. All patients achieved at least tumor stabilization; four of five had a partial remission. Effects of therapy were usually seen in the first cycle of therapy but the responses were of short duration with an average interval of two months until progression.


As combined radiochemotherapy with liposomal doxorubicin is well tolerated even in older patients with other illnesses and can be given on an outpatient basis, it is an attractive option for metastatic Merkel cell carcinoma. Based on response rate or overall survival, it offers no advantages compared to polychemotherapy.

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