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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

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. It is applied two to four times per day. 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
Written by: Sarah O'Brien | Last reviewed: May 2019.
  1. American Cancer Society. Kaposi sarcoma. Accessed April 26, 2017:
  2. National Cancer Institute. Kaposi sarcoma treatment (PDQ) – health professional version. Accessed April 26, 2017 at:
  3. Bodsworth NJ, Bloch M, Bower M, Donnell D, Yocum R; International Panretin Gel KS Study Group. Phase III vehicle-controlled, multi-centered study of topical alitretinoin gel 0.1% in cutaneous AIDS-related Kaposi's sarcoma. Am J Clin Dermatol. 2001;2:77-87.
  4. Intron A® [prescribing information]. Whitehouse Station, NJ: Schering Corporation; May 2015.