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Cancer Snapshots: Disease Focused and Other Snapshots

  • Posted: 12/02/2013

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.

Line graphs showing U.S. Kaposi Sarcoma Incidence per 100,000.  First line graph shows incidence in Whites, African Americans, and Hispanics between 1990-2010.  In 2010, African Americans have the highest incidence.  Second line graph shows U.S. Kaposi Sarcoma Incidence by Age at Diagnosis for Whites and African Americans.  Comparing Whites and African Americans, incidence is higher for African Americans age 20-59 at diagnosis and higher in Whites above age 60 at diagnosis.

Examples of NCI Activities Relevant to Kaposi Sarcoma

Selected Advances in Kaposi Sarcoma Research

Pie chart of NCI Kaposi Sarcoma Research Portfolio.  Percentage of total dollars by scientific area.  Fiscal year 2012.  Biology, 18%.  Etiology/causes of cancer, 38%.  Prevention, 5%.  Early detection, diagnosis, and prognosis, 6%.  Treatment, 23%.  Cancer control, survivorship, and outcomes research, 5%.  Scientific model systems, 5%.
  • 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).

Bar graph of NCI Kaposi Sarcoma Research Investment in 2008-2012: Fiscal year (FY) 2008, $27.0 million Kaposi Sarcoma Funding of $4.83 billion Total NCI budget. FY 2009, $25.2 million Kaposi Sarcoma Funding of $4.97 billion Total NCI Budget. FY 2010, $22.4 million Kaposi Sarcoma Funding of $5.10 billion Total NCI Budget.  FY 2011, $24.5 million Kaposi Sarcoma Funding of $5.06 billion Total NCI Budget.    FY 2012, $22.9 million Kaposi Sarcoma Funding of $5.07 billion Total NCI Budget.

Additional Resources 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.

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