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Cancer Health Center

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Kaposi Sarcoma Treatment (PDQ®): Treatment - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Epidemic Kaposi Sarcoma Treatment

Treatment may result:

  1. In a disappearance or reduction in size of specific skin lesions, thereby alleviating the discomfort associated with the chronic edema and ulcerations that often accompany multiple skin tumors seen on the lower extremities.
  2. In control of symptoms associated with mucosal or visceral lesions.

No data are available, however, to show that treatment improves survival.[1] In addition to antitumor treatment, essential components of an optimal Kaposi sarcoma (KS) treatment strategy include highly active antiretroviral treatment (HAART), prophylaxis for opportunistic infections, and rapid recognition and treatment of intercurrent infections.

Most good-risk patients, as defined by the AIDS Clinical Trials Group, show tumor regression with HAART alone.[2] Poor-risk patients usually require a combination of HAART and chemotherapy with discontinuation of the chemotherapy after disappearance of the skin lesion.[2]

Local modalities

Small localized lesions of KS may be treated by electrodesiccation and curettage, cryotherapy, or by surgical excision. KS tumors are also generally very responsive to local radiation therapy, and excellent palliation has been obtained with doses at 20 Gy or slightly higher.[3,4,5] One report demonstrated a response rate higher than 90%, with a median time to progression of 21 months. Although no difference in response was noted with a variety of fractionation regimens, a single fraction of 8 Gy is indicated for cutaneous lesions and is associated with significantly fewer severe reactions.[6] Radiation therapy is generally reserved to treat localized areas of the skin and oral cavity. It is less often used to control pulmonary, gastrointestinal tract, or other sites of KS lesions. Localized KS lesions have also been effectively treated with intralesional injections of vinblastine.[7] Alitretinoin 0.1% gel provided local control in a randomized prospective multicenter trial.[8][Level of evidence: 1iiDiv]


In epidemic KS, the already profoundly depressed immunologic status of the host limits the therapeutic usefulness of systemic chemotherapy. Systemic chemotherapy studies in epidemic KS have used as single agents or in combinations doxorubicin, bleomycin, vinblastine, vincristine, etoposide, paclitaxel, and docetaxel.[9,10,11,12,13][Level of evidence: 3iiiDiv]

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