Kaposi Sarcoma Treatment

Treatment of Kaposi sarcoma is different from treatment of other skin cancers. Part of treatment for AIDS-related Kaposi sarcoma is treatment for HIV infection. Improving immune function with antiretroviral therapy may reduce the size of Kaposi sarcoma lesions.1

Kaposi sarcoma treatment goals

The treatment goals for Kaposi sarcoma are also different from other skin cancers. The goal of treating Kaposi sarcoma is to reduce symptoms. The aim is not to remove all the cancer cells or to prolong survival.2 Treatment is selected based on the type of Kaposi sarcoma, how many lesions you have, and your overall health.

Local treatment procedures

Local procedures used to shrink or eliminate lesions include curettage and electrodesiccation, cryotherapy, and photodynamic therapy.

Topical medication

Topical retinoid gel (brand name: Panretin; generic name: alitretinoin) can be used to treat Kaposi sarcoma skin lesions. It is only used if systemic therapy is not needed. More than one-third of patients have an improvement in lesions.3

Other treatments

  • Excision: For a person with a only a few small lesions, excising the lesion may be an option.
  • Radiation therapy:Radiation therapy treats lesions on the skin and in the mouth.
  • Chemotherapy:Chemotherapy may be injected into the lesion. In other cases, it is used for systemic treatment.
  • Immunotherapy:Cytokine immunotherapy with interferon-alfa is occasionally used for patients with no systemic symptoms, limited lymph node disease, and fairly good immune function.4 Pomalidomide (Pomalyst®) may be used to treat Kaposi sarcoma in certain patients who are HIV negative, or certain patients with Kaposi sarcoma related to having AIDS where highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) is not working anymore.

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Written by: Sarah O'Brien | Last reviewed: June 2021.