A Snapshot of Kaposi Sarcoma
Incidence and Mortality
Kaposi sarcoma (KS) is a soft-tissue sarcoma that affects the skin, oral cavity, esophagus, and anal canal. "Classic" KS is rare and found mainly in older men of Mediterranean or Jewish ancestry. Immunosuppressed individuals are also at increased risk for KS. The incidence of KS rose sharply in the 1980s, with the emergence of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), and it is now the most common tumor associated with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. In the United States, infection with HIV is by far the greatest risk factor for KS.
The incidence of KS began to drop dramatically in the mid-1990s, with the introduction of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART), which partially restores immune system function, and has remained relatively stable since 2000. Men are much more likely to develop KS than women, particularly between the ages of 25 and 59. Since the mid-1990s, the incidence rate has been highest in African Americans.
KS is caused by the Kaposi sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV). Most people infected with KSHV do not get KS or show any symptoms. KSHV-infected individuals who develop KS typically have a weakened immune system due to HIV infection, organ transplant, older age, or some other factor. Standard treatments for KS include radiation therapy, surgery, chemotherapy, and biological therapy.
Examples of NCI Activities Relevant to Kaposi Sarcoma
- The Kaposi Sarcoma Working Group, part of the AIDS Malignancy Consortium, supports studies to evaluate the safety, side effects, and effectiveness of potential treatments and preventive medicines for KS and develops comprehensive procedures for evaluating KS response data and correlating these data with patient outcomes.
- The Office of HIV and AIDS Malignancy coordinates and prioritizes HIV/AIDS-related research throughout NCI and oversees research programs in HIV/AIDS and HIV-associated cancers.
- The Infections and Immunoepidemiology Branch conducts multidisciplinary research on infectious agents and cancer, including KS and other HIV/AIDS-associated malignancies. Projects include assessing the effects of smoking, of other environmental exposures, and of immunity- and inflammation-related genes on the risk of KSHV infection and exploring the genomic integrity of KS.
- The Cancer Etiology Branch (CEB) supports research programs that deal with biological, chemical, and physical agents that are known or possible carcinogens. One program area, in HIV- and AIDS-associated malignancies, supports investigations of the role of HIV, KSHV, and other viruses as etiologic agents of AIDS-associated cancers and how their interactions affect carcinogenesis and cancer progression.
- The Center of Excellence in HIV/AIDS and Cancer Virology facilitates and communicates advances in antiviral and immunologic approaches for preventing and treating HIV infection, AIDS-related malignancies, and cancer-associated viral diseases.
- The Pilot Study of Liposomal Doxorubicin Combined with Bevacizumab Followed by Bevacizumab Monotherapy in Adults with Advanced Kaposi Sarcoma clinical trial is exploring whether combining bevacizumab with liposomal doxorubicin is effective in shrinking KS tumors in patients with advanced disease.
Selected Advances in Kaposi Sarcoma Research
- KSHV manipulates gene expression in host endothelial cells, reducing the level of RGS4, a cellular protein that inhibits tumor development. Published August 2012. [PubMed Abstract]
- In a cohort study of patients with HIV, KS risk was found to be significantly elevated within the first three months of starting combined antiretroviral therapy, even if levels of immune cells increased. Published February 2013. [PubMed Abstract]
- In a novel mouse model of KS, treatment with inhibitors of the cell growth protein mTOR reduced tumor growth by blocking tumor angiogenesis. Published February 2013. [PubMed Abstract]
- A kinase that is essential for the tumor-promoting activity of the viral protein GPCR may serve as a novel therapeutic target. Published June 2013. [PubMed Abstract]
- See this PubMed list of selected free full-text journal articles on NCI-supported research relevant to Kaposi sarcoma. You can also search PubMed for additional scientific articles or to complete a search tutorial.
Trends in NCI Funding for Kaposi Sarcoma Research
The National Cancer Institute's (NCI) investment1 in KS research decreased from $27 million in fiscal year (FY) 2008 to $22.9 million in FY 2012. In addition to this funding, NCI supported $11 million in KS research in FY 2009 and FY 2010 using funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).2
Additional Resources for Kaposi Sarcoma
- AIDS-Related Cancers Home Page
NCI's gateway for information about AIDS-related cancers.
- HIV Infection and Cancer Risk
A fact sheet that describes the increased risk of certain types of cancer by people infected with HIV. These cancers include Kaposi sarcoma, Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and cancers of the anus, cervix, liver, and lung. Also describes what people with HIV infection can do to lower their risk of cancer or find cancer early.
- Kaposi Sarcoma Treatment (PDQ®)
Expert-reviewed information summary about the treatment of Kaposi sarcoma.
- Clinical Trials for Kaposi Sarcoma
- 1 The estimated NCI investment is based on funding associated with a broad range of peer-reviewed scientific activities. For additional information on research planning and budgeting at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), see About NIH.
- 2 For more information regarding ARRA funding at NCI, see Recovery Act Funding at NCI.