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Newly Diagnosed Carcinoma of Unknown Primary

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    Melanoma (Melanotic or Amelanotic) Occurring in a Single Nodal Site

    Approximately 5% of patients present with no detectable primary site.

    Treatment option:

    • Radical lymph node dissection. For patients who present with a single site of nodal metastasis, this treatment will yield a survival that is slightly better than that obtained in conventional stage II melanoma.

    Multiple Involvement

    When patients present with widespread metastatic disease and special studies reveal a probable primary tumor for which standard systemic therapy is available, such therapy should be administered. This may include hormonal therapy for prostate and breast cancer, I131 for thyroid cancer, or cytotoxic single-agent or combination chemotherapy for hormone-refractory breast and ovarian cancers. Standard approaches for such diseases are available in the specific PDQ summaries for each diagnosis.

    The majority of patients will not have a definable primary source. For such patients, a variety of combination chemotherapy approaches have been tried with little success. No treatment can be considered standard at present. Therefore, such patients should be considered for available clinical trials. Information about ongoing clinical trials is available from the NCI Web site.

    Current Clinical Trials

    Check for U.S. clinical trials from NCI's list of cancer clinical trials that are now accepting patients with newly diagnosed carcinoma of unknown primary. The list of clinical trials can be further narrowed by location, drug, intervention, and other criteria.

    General information about clinical trials is also available from the NCI Web site.

    References:

    1. Righi PD, Sofferman RA: Screening unilateral tonsillectomy in the unknown primary. Laryngoscope 105 (5 Pt 1): 548-50, 1995.
    2. Lassen U, Daugaard G, Eigtved A, et al.: 18F-FDG whole body positron emission tomography (PET) in patients with unknown primary tumours (UPT). Eur J Cancer 35 (7): 1076-82, 1999.
    3. Rades D, Kühnel G, Wildfang I, et al.: Localised disease in cancer of unknown primary (CUP): the value of positron emission tomography (PET) for individual therapeutic management. Ann Oncol 12 (11): 1605-9, 2001.
    4. Beldì D, Jereczek-Fossa BA, D'Onofrio A, et al.: Role of radiotherapy in the treatment of cervical lymph node metastases from an unknown primary site: retrospective analysis of 113 patients. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 69 (4): 1051-8, 2007.
    5. Madani I, Vakaet L, Bonte K, et al.: Intensity-modulated radiotherapy for cervical lymph node metastases from unknown primary cancer. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 71 (4): 1158-66, 2008.
    6. Sher DJ, Balboni TA, Haddad RI, et al.: Efficacy and toxicity of chemoradiotherapy using intensity-modulated radiotherapy for unknown primary of head and neck. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 80 (5): 1405-11, 2011.
    7. Davidson BJ, Spiro RH, Patel S, et al.: Cervical metastases of occult origin: the impact of combined modality therapy. Am J Surg 168 (5): 395-9, 1994.
    8. Hainsworth JD, Johnson DH, Greco FA: Cisplatin-based combination chemotherapy in the treatment of poorly differentiated carcinoma and poorly differentiated adenocarcinoma of unknown primary site: results of a 12-year experience. J Clin Oncol 10 (6): 912-22, 1992.
    9. Pavlidis N, Kosmidis P, Skarlos D, et al.: Subsets of tumors responsive to cisplatin or carboplatin combinations in patients with carcinoma of unknown primary site. A Hellenic Cooperative Oncology Group Study. Ann Oncol 3 (8): 631-4, 1992.
    10. Greco FA, Burris HA 3rd, Erland JB, et al.: Carcinoma of unknown primary site. Cancer 89 (12): 2655-60, 2000.
    11. Garrow GC, Greco FA, Hainsworth JD: Poorly differentiated neuroendocrine carcinoma of unknown primary tumor site. Semin Oncol 20 (3): 287-91, 1993.
    12. Strnad CM, Grosh WW, Baxter J, et al.: Peritoneal carcinomatosis of unknown primary site in women. A distinctive subset of adenocarcinoma. Ann Intern Med 111 (3): 213-7, 1989.
    13. Dalrymple JC, Bannatyne P, Russell P, et al.: Extraovarian peritoneal serous papillary carcinoma. A clinicopathologic study of 31 cases. Cancer 64 (1): 110-5, 1989.
    14. Merson M, Andreola S, Galimberti V, et al.: Breast carcinoma presenting as axillary metastases without evidence of a primary tumor. Cancer 70 (2): 504-8, 1992.
    15. Ellerbroek N, Holmes F, Singletary E, et al.: Treatment of patients with isolated axillary nodal metastases from an occult primary carcinoma consistent with breast origin. Cancer 66 (7): 1461-7, 1990.
    16. Guarischi A, Keane TJ, Elhakim T: Metastatic inguinal nodes from an unknown primary neoplasm. A review of 56 cases. Cancer 59 (3): 572-7, 1987.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

    Last Updated: February 25, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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