Kaposi's sarcoma

Caption =
Intraoral Kaposi’s sarcoma lesion with an overlying candidiasis infection.

OMIM = 148000
MedlinePlus = 000661
eMedicineSubj = med
eMedicineTopic = 1218
eMedicine_mult = eMedicine2|derm|203 eMedicine2|oph|481
DiseasesDB = 7105
MeshID = D012514

Kaposi's sarcoma (KS) is a tumor caused by Human herpesvirus 8 (HHV8), also known as Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV). It was originally described by Moritz Kaposi, a Hungarian dermatologist practicing at the University of Vienna in 1872. [cite journal |last=Kaposi|first=M |authorlink= |coauthors= |year=1872 |month= |title=Idiopathisches multiples Pigmentsarkom der Haut |journal=Arch. Dermatol. Syph. |volume=4 |issue= |pages=265–273 |id= |url= |accessdate= |quote=|doi=10.1007/BF01830024 ] It became more widely known as one of the AIDS defining illnesses in the 1980s. The viral cause for this cancer was discovered in 1994. Although KS is now well-established to be caused by a virus infection, there is widespread lack of awareness of this even among persons at risk for KSHV/HHV-8 infection [cite journal |author=Phillips AM, Jones AG, Osmond DH, Pollack LM, Catania JA, Martin JN |title=Awareness of Kaposi's Sarcoma-Associated Herpesvirus Among Men Who Have Sex With Men |journal=Sex Transm Dis |volume= |issue= |pages= |year=2008 |month=Jul |pmid=18665016 |doi=10.1097/OLQ.0b013e318182c91f |url= |doi_brokendate=2008-09-09] .

Epidemiological varieties

HHV-8 is responsible for all varieties of KS.

"Classic KS"as originally described was a relatively indolent disease affecting elderly men from the Mediterranean region, or of Eastern European descent. Countries bordering the Mediterranean basin have higher rates of KSHV/HHV-8 infection than the remainder of Europe [cite journal |last=Iscovich |first=J |authorlink= |coauthors= |year=1998 |month=Oct 22|title=Classic Kaposi's sarcoma in Jews living in Israel, 1961-1989: a population-based incidence study |journal=AIDS |volume=12 |issue=15 |pages=2067–72 |id= |url=http://www.aidsonline.com/pt/re/aids/abstract.00002030-199815000-00019.htm;jsessionid=Gy0NY0Y2b5lXKwJTGkQv1C1SdhTymxKmhpM4Hkrdvvz3pyXQ9GPV!-1804036389!-949856145!8091!-1 |accessdate= |quote= |doi=10.1097/00002030-199815000-00019 ] [cite journal |last=Fenig |first=E |authorlink= |coauthors= |year=1998 |month=Oct |title=Classic Kaposi sarcoma: experience at Rabin Medical Center in Israel |journal=Am J Clin Oncol |volume=21 |issue=5 |pages=498–500 |id= |url=http://www.amjclinicaloncology.com/pt/re/ajco/abstract.00000421-199810000-00016.htm;jsessionid=Gy0Jys29KWqzWg4RWhQN9vCyvP3tMPn24WG35BQbdLHGlhJc1y7S!-1804036389!-949856145!8091!-1 |accessdate= |quote= |doi=10.1097/00000421-199810000-00016 ]

"Endemic KS"was described later in young African people, mainly from sub-Saharan Africa, as a more aggressive disease which infiltrated the skin extensively, especially on the lower limbs. This, it should be noted, is unrelated to HIV infection. The high rate of KS in sub-Saharan countries is due to the high rates of HHV 8 infection in their general populations, frequently greater than 50%. [cite journal |last=Cook-Mozaffari |first=P |authorlink= |coauthors= |year=1998 |month=Dec |title=The geographical distribution of Kaposi's sarcoma and of lymphomas in Africa before the AIDS epidemic |journal=Br J Cancer |volume=78 |issue=11 |pages=1521–8 |pmid=9836488 |accessdate= |quote= ] [cite journal |last=Olsen |first=SJ |authorlink= |coauthors= |year=1998 |month=Oct |title=Increasing Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus seroprevalence with age in a highly Kaposi's sarcoma endemic region, Zambia in 1985 |journal=AIDS |volume=12 |issue=14 |pages=1921–5 |id= |url=http://dceg.cancer.gov/pdfs/olsen1219211998.pdf |accessdate= |quote= |doi=10.1097/00002030-199814000-00024 ]

"Transplant Related KS"had been described, but only rarely until the advent of calcineurin inhibitors (such as ciclosporin, which are inhibitors of T-cell function) for transplant patients in the 1980s, when its incidence grew rapidly. The tumor arises either when an HHV 8-infected organ is transplanted into someone who has not been exposed to the virus or when the transplant recipient already harbors pre-existing HHV 8 infection. [cite journal |last=Qunibi |first=W |authorlink= |coauthors= |year=1998 |month=Feb 27 |title=Serologic association of human herpesvirus eight with posttransplant Kaposi's sarcoma in Saudi Arabia |journal=Transplantation |volume=65 |issue=4 |pages=583–5 |id= |url=http://www.transplantjournal.com/pt/re/transplantation/abstract.00007890-199802270-00024.htm;jsessionid=Gy4Gq82dl1t9ppllm80G1PDjkbpmqFFkp2ypLSLnW2DthLg22DcM!220059229!-949856144!8091!-1 |accessdate= |quote= |doi=10.1097/00007890-199802270-00024 ] [cite journal |last= Luppi |first=Mario |authorlink= |coauthors= |year=2000 |month=Nov 9 |title=Bone marrow failure associated with human herpesvirus 8 infection after transplantation |journal=N Engl J Med |volume=343 |issue=19 |pages=1378–85 |id= |doi= 10.1056/NEJM200011093431905 |accessdate= |quote= |pmid=11070102 ]

"Epidemic KS"was described during the 1980s as an aggressive disease in AIDS patients (HIV also causes a defect in T-cell immunity). It is over 300 times more common in AIDS patients than in renal transplant recipients. In this case, HHV 8 is sexually transmitted among gay and bisexual men who are also at risk for sexually transmitted HIV infection. [cite journal |author=Beral V, Peterman TA, Berkelman RL, Jaffe HW |title=Kaposi's sarcoma among persons with AIDS: a sexually transmitted infection? |journal=Lancet |volume=335 |issue=8682 |pages=123–8 |year=1990 |month=Jan |pmid=1967430 |doi=10.1016/0140-6736(90)90001-L |url=http://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/0140-6736(90)90001-L]

Clinical features

KS lesions are nodules or blotches that may be red, purple, brown, or black, and are usually papular (i.e. palpable or raised).They are typically found on the skin, but spread elsewhere is common, especially the mouth, gastrointestinal tract and respiratory tract. Growth can range from very slow to explosively fast, and is associated with significant mortality and morbidity. [cite journal |last=Dezube |first=BJ |authorlink= |coauthors= |year=1996 |month=Oct |title=Clinical presentation and natural history of AIDS--related Kaposi's sarcoma |journal=Hematol Oncol Clin North Am |volume=10 |issue=5 |pages=1023–9 |pmid=8880194 |doi=10.1016/S0889-8588(05)70382-8 ]


Commonly affected areas include the lower limbs, face, mouth and genitalia. The lesions are usually as described above, but may occasionally be plaque-like (often on the soles of the feet) or even involved in skin breakdown with resulting fungating lesions.Associated swelling may be from either local inflammation or lymphoedema (obstruction of local lymphatic vessels by the lesion). Skin lesions may be quite disfiguring for the sufferer, and a cause of much psychosocial pathology.


Is involved in about 30%, and is the initial site in 15% of AIDS related KS. In the mouth, the hard palate is most frequently affected, followed by the gums. [cite journal |last=Nichols |first=CM |authorlink= |coauthors= |year=1993 |month=Nov |title=Treating Kaposi's lesions in the HIV-infected patient |journal=J Am Dent Assoc |volume=124 |issue=11 |pages=78–84 |id= |url=http://jada.ada.org/cgi/content/abstract/124/11/78 |accessdate= 2007-06-11 |quote= |pmid=8227776 ] Lesions in the mouth may be easily damaged by chewing and bleed or suffer secondary infection, and even interfere with eating or speaking.

Gastrointestinal tract

Involvement can be common in those with transplant related or AIDS related KS, and it may occur in the absence of skin involvement. The gastrointestinal lesions may be silent or cause weight loss, pain, nausea/vomiting, diarrhea, bleeding (either vomiting blood or passing it with bowel motions), malabsorption, or intestinal obstruction. [cite journal |last=Danzig |first=JB |authorlink= |coauthors= |year=1991 |month=Jun |title=Gastrointestinal malignancy in patients with AIDS |journal=Am J Gastroenterol |volume=86 |issue=6 |pages=715–8 |pmid=2038993 ]

Respiratory tract

Involvement of the airway can present with shortness of breath, fever, cough, hemoptysis (coughing up blood), or chest pain, or as an incidental finding on chest x-ray. [cite journal |last=Garay |first=SM |authorlink= |coauthors= |year=1987 |month=Jan |title=Pulmonary manifestations of Kaposi's sarcoma |journal=Chest |volume=91 |issue=1 |pages=39–43 |id= |url=http://www.chestjournal.org/cgi/reprint/91/1/39 |accessdate= 2007-06-11 |quote= |doi=10.1378/chest.91.1.39 |pmid=3792084 ] The diagnosis is usually confirmed by bronchoscopy when the lesions are directly seen, and often biopsied.

Pathophysiology and diagnosis

Despite its name, it is generally not considered a true sarcoma, which is a tumor arising from mesenchymal tissue. KS actually arises as a cancer of lymphatic endothelium and forms vascular channels that fill with blood cells, giving the tumor its characteristic bruise-like appearance. KSHV proteins are uniformly detected in KS cancer cells.

KS lesions contain tumor cells with a characteristic abnormal elongated shape, called "spindle cells". The tumor is highly vascular, containing abnormally dense and irregular blood vessels, which leak red blood cells into the surrounding tissue and give the tumor its dark color. Inflammation around the tumor may produce swelling and pain.

Although KS may be suspected from the appearance of lesions and the patient's risk factors, a definite diagnosis can only be made by biopsy and microscopic examination, which will show the presence of spindle cells. Detection of the KSHV protein LANA in tumor cells confirms the diagnosis.

Treatment and prevention

Blood tests to detect antibodies against KSHV have been developed and can be used to determine if a patient is at risk for transmitting infection to his or her sexual partner, or if an organ is infected prior to transplantation. Unfortunately, these tests are not available except as research tools and thus there is little screening for persons at risk for becoming infected with KSHV, such as transplant patients.

Kaposi's sarcoma is not curable, in the usual sense of the word, but it can often be effectively palliated for many years and this is the aim of treatment. In KS associated with immunodeficiency or immunosuppression, treating the cause of the immune system dysfunction can slow or stop the progression of KS. In 40% or more of patients with AIDS-associated Kaposi's sarcoma, the Kaposi lesions will shrink upon first starting highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). However, in a certain percentage of such patients, Kaposi's sarcoma may again grow after a number of years on HAART, especially if HIV is not completely suppressed. Patients with a few local lesions can often be treated with local measures such as radiation therapy or cryosurgery. Surgery is generally not recommended as Kaposi's sarcoma can appear in wound edges. More widespread disease, or disease affecting internal organs, is generally treated with systemic therapy with interferon alpha, liposomal anthracyclines (such as Doxil) or paclitaxel. With the decrease in the death rate among AIDS patients receiving new treatments in the 1990s, the incidence and severity of epidemic KS also decreased. However, the number of patients living with AIDS is increasing substantially in the United States, and it is possible that the number of patients with AIDS-associated Kaposi's sarcoma will again rise as these patients live longer with HIV infection.

History and theories


The disease is named after Moritz Kaposi (1837–1902), a Hungarian dermatologist who first described the symptoms in 1872. Research over the next century suggested that KS, like some other forms of cancer, might be caused by a virus or genetic factors, but no definite cause was found.

AIDS symptom

With the rise of the AIDS epidemic, KS, as initially one of the most common AIDS symptoms, was researched more intensively in hopes that it might reveal the cause of AIDS.

Resurgence in AIDS patients

San Francisco doctors reported a Kaposi's sarcoma cluster among gay men. All 15 patients undergoing treatment are long-term HIV patients whose HIV infections are firmly controlled with antiviral drugs. None appears to be in any danger. The new cases are not aggressive, invasive or lethal as was typical with uncontrolled HIV during the 1980s. The lesions are unsightly, difficult to treat and raise questions about the immune response aging of HIV patients. [cite web | url = http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/10/11/MNEESOFRG.DTL | title = Unsettling re-emergence of 'gay cancer' | first = Sabin | last = Russell | date = 2007-10-11 | publisher = San Francisco Chronicle | accessdate = 2007-10-12 ]

Virus caused

In 1994, Yuan Chang, Patrick S. Moore, and Ethel Cesarman at Columbia University in New York isolated genetic pieces of a virus from a KS lesion. They used representational difference analysis (a method to subtract out all of the human DNA from a sample) to isolate the viral genes. They then used these small DNA fragments as starting points to sequence the rest of the viral genome in 1996. This, the eighth human herpesvirus (HHV-8)—now known as Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV)—has since been found in all KS lesions tested, and is considered the cause of the disease. KSHV is a unique human tumor virus that has incorporated cellular genes that cause tumors into its genome ("molecular piracy"); the stolen cellular genes may help the virus escape from the immune system, but in doing so it also causes cells to proliferate. It is related to Epstein-Barr virus, a very common herpesvirus that can also cause human cancers. KSHV is readily found in all forms of KS. The virus is sexually transmitted among men having sex with men [http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/abstract/338/14/948] and can be transmitted through organ donation [http://bloodjournal.hematologylibrary.org/cgi/content/full/90/7/2826] . In Africa, high rates of KSHV infection has led to KS becoming the most common cancer in sub-Saharan Africa [http://www.nature.com/bjc/journal/v88/n1/abs/6600745a.html;jsessionid=7F44875AAB4DEE1211F6A2ECD3AA0ED1] . KSHV infection is thought to be life-long so that persons infected with KSHV may develop KS years later if they develop AIDS or other immunosuppression.

Unknown factors

Like other tumor viruses, KSHV infection only leads to cancer in a minority of infected persons. Other factors are required, such as pre-existing immune system damage, for disease to erupt. In Africa has shown that even in the absence of HIV/AIDS, KS is more common in men than women although KSHV infection is equal between both sexes. This suggests that sex hormones may either protect from or predispose to KS in persons infected with the virus. Although older theories suggested that HIV might directly initiate KS, aside from its effects on the immune system, HIV and KSHV infect different cells and HIV is not found in KS tumors making this theory obsolete.

KS awareness

Only 6% of men having sex with men are aware that KS is caused by a virus different from HIV [cite journal |author=Phillips AM, Jones AG, Osmond DH, Pollack LM, Catania JA, Martin JN |title=Awareness of Kaposi's Sarcoma-Associated Herpesvirus Among Men Who Have Sex With Men |journal=Sex Transm Dis |volume= |issue= |pages= |year=2008 |month=Jul |pmid=18665016 |doi=10.1097/OLQ.0b013e318182c91f |url= |doi_brokendate=2008-09-09] . Thus, there is little community effort to prevent KSHV infection. Similarly, no systematic screening of organ donations is in place.

In AIDS patients, Kaposi's sarcoma is considered an opportunistic infection, a disease that is able to gain a foothold in the body because the immune system has been weakened. With the rise of HIV/AIDS in Africa, where KSHV is widespread, KS has become the most frequently reported cancer in some countries, such as Zimbabwe.

Nigerian bandleader Fela Kuti succumbed to the disease in 1997.

Because of their highly visible nature, external lesions are sometimes the presenting symptom of AIDS. Kaposi's sarcoma entered the awareness of the general public with the release of the film "Philadelphia", in which the main character was fired after his employers found out he was HIV-positive due to visible lesions. Unfortunately, by the time KS lesions appear, it is likely that the immune system has already been severely weakened.


14 cite journal |author=Antman K, Chang Y |title=Kaposi's sarcoma |journal=N. Engl. J. Med. |volume=342 |issue=14 |pages=1027–38 |year=2000 |month=Apr |pmid=10749966 |doi= |url=http://content.nejm.org/cgi/pmidlookup?view=short&pmid=10749966&promo=ONFLNS19
*cite journal |author=Scheinfeld N |title=Kaposi's sarcoma mimicking a facial cyst as the presenting sign of human immunodeficiency virus |journal=Skinmed |volume=3 |issue=2 |pages=109–11 |year=2004 |pmid=15010641 |doi= |url=http://www.lejacq.com/articleDetail.cfm?pid=SKINmed_3;2:109

*cite journal |author=Chang Y, Cesarman E, Pessin MS, "et al" |title=Identification of herpesvirus-like DNA sequences in AIDS-associated Kaposi's sarcoma |journal=Science (journal) |volume=266 |issue=5192 |pages=1865–9 |year=1994 |month=Dec |pmid=7997879 |doi= |url=http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/pmidlookup?view=long&pmid=7997879

*cite journal |author=Yarchoan R, Tosato G, Little RF |title=Therapy insight: AIDS-related malignancies--the influence of antiviral therapy on pathogenesis and management |journal=Nat Clin Pract Oncol |volume=2 |issue=8 |pages=406–15; quiz 423 |year=2005 |month=Aug |pmid=16130937 |doi= |url=

External links

* [http://www.dermnet.com/thumbnailIndex.cfm?moduleID=20&moduleGroupID=597&groupIndex=0&numcols=0 Kaposi's sarcoma photo library at Dermnet]
* [http://www.biotrin.com/HHV-8KaposiSarcoma.html] Kaposi Sarcoma information

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Kaposi's sarcoma — [kə pō′zēz΄, kə pōsēz΄; kap′ə zēz΄, kap′əsēz΄] n. [after M. K. Kaposi (1837 1902), Hung dermatologist] a malignant tumor, usually of the skin, appearing primarily in persons with an immunological deficiency …   English World dictionary

  • Kaposi's sarcoma — Ka·po·si s sarcoma kap ə zēz , kə pō , sēz n a neoplastic disease affecting esp. the skin and mucous membranes, characterized esp. by the formation of pink to reddish brown or bluish tumorous plaques, macules, papules, or nodules esp. on the… …   Medical dictionary

  • Kaposi's sarcoma — noun a sarcoma that starts with purplish spots on the feet and legs and spreads from the skin to lymph nodes and internal organs; a common manifestation of AIDS until 1980 Kaposi s sarcoma occurred almost exclusively with Jewish or Italian or… …   Useful english dictionary

  • Kaposi's sarcoma — noun Etymology: Moritz Kaposi died 1902 Hungarian dermatologist Date: 1916 a neoplastic disease associated especially with AIDS, affecting especially the skin and mucous membranes, and characterized usually by the formation of pink to reddish… …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • Kaposi's sarcoma — /keuh poh seez, kap euh /, Pathol. a cancer of connective tissue characterized by painless, purplish red to brown plaquelike or pimply lesions on the extremities, trunk, or head, and sometimes involving the lungs, viscera, etc., occurring in a… …   Universalium

  • Kaposi's sarcoma — [kə pəʊsɪz] noun Medicine a form of cancer involving multiple tumours of the lymph nodes or skin, occurring chiefly as a result of Aids. Origin C19: named after the Hungarian dermatologist Moritz K. Kaposi …   English new terms dictionary

  • Kaposi's sarcoma — a malignant tumour arising from blood vessels in the skin and appearing as purple to dark brown plaques or nodules. It is common in Africa but rare in the Western world, except in patients with AIDS. The tumour evolves slowly; radiotherapy is the …   The new mediacal dictionary

  • Kaposi's sarcoma — Ka′po•si s sarco′ma [[t]ˈkɑ pə siz, ˈkæp ə [/t]] n. pat a cancer of connective tissue characterized by painless purplish red blotches appearing on the skin • Etymology: after Hungarian dermatologist Moritz Kaposi, or Moriz Kohn (1837–1902), who… …   From formal English to slang

  • Kaposi's sarcoma — /kapoʊziz saˈkoʊmə/ (say kahpohzeez sah kohmuh) noun a cancer of the connective tissue, which appears as purplish red to brown, flat or pimply lesions on the skin and which may extend to the lungs, viscera, etc., occurring in a mild form among… …   Australian English dictionary

  • Kaposi's sarcoma — A sarcoma of spindle cells mixed with angiomatous tissue. Usually classed as an angioblastic tumour. A fairly frequent concomitant to HIV infection or long term immunosuppression …   Dictionary of molecular biology

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