Immunotherapy in advanced Merkel cell carcinoma: Sydney west cancer network experience.

Hasmat S, Howle JR, Karikios DJ, Carlino MS, Veness MJ. J Med Imaging Radiat Oncol. (Epub 30 May 2021)


Introduction: Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is a highly aggressive skin cancer with no survival benefit demonstrated using palliative cytotoxic chemotherapy in the setting of metastatic MCC. Recently, immune checkpoint inhibitors (anti-PD-L1/PD1) have been approved in this setting after durable clinical response was demonstrated in several clinical trials. In this series, we present a multicentre real-world experience in using anti-PD-L1/PD1 in advanced MCC.

Methods: A retrospective review was performed of all patients with metastatic MCC who were treated with at least one dose of anti-PD-L1/PD1 presenting to Sydney West Cancer Network (Westmead, Nepean and Blacktown hospitals) was performed between 2016 and 2020. Treatment response was assessed based on morphologic and/or metabolic changes of the disease on FDG-PET/CT scans. Primary end point investigated was objective response rate. Secondary outcomes included therapy toxicity, disease control and overall survival.

Results: Thirteen patients received anti-PD-L1/PD1 with a median age of 82 (range 62-89). Two patients had undergone prior palliative chemotherapy. The median follow-up time was 17 months (range 2-34). The overall, complete and partial response rates were 77% (10), 54% (7) and 23% (3), respectively. Treatment-related grade 1 or 2 toxicity was experienced by 69% with only 2 cases of greater severity. The median progression-free survival and overall survival were 18 months (95% CI 10-26 months) and 33 months (95% CI range 7.6-58.4 months), respectively.

Conclusions: Consistent with clinical trial results, anti-PD-L1/PD1 therapy in this small series demonstrated efficacy and safety in patients with metastatic MCC.