Drug that blocks blood vessel growth may be beneficial in treating AIDS-related Kaposi’s sarcoma

  • Posted: March 20, 2012
NCI Press Office


Patients with an AIDS-associated cancer, Kaposi's sarcoma (KS), showed improvement after receiving the combination of bevacizumab, a cancer drug that blocks the growth of new blood vessels, and highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). While HAART is an integral part of successful KS therapy for people with AIDS, those with advanced KS rarely respond to HAART alone. Most often, the drug Doxil (liposomal doxorubicin) is combined with HAART to treat AIDS-KS patients, but due to cumulative cardiac toxicity, treatment with this drug must be stopped after reaching a defined safe dose.  Results from this phase II clinical trial, by scientists at the National Cancer Institute, suggest that bevacizumab, combined with HAART, may be a beneficial new treatment for patients with HIV-KS. The results were published online March 19, 2012, in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

KS tumors depend on the formation of new blood vessels for their growth. The lesions affect the skin or mouth and, in more severe cases, the lymph nodes, the lungs, or other internal organs. Since bevacizumab is known to block blood vessel growth, the investigators tested to see if it could block the growth of KS tumors. In this study, 17 AIDS-KS patients who were receiving HAART were given a regimen of intravenous bevacizumab for a median of 10 cycles. Most had advanced KS. Of the 16 patients who could be evaluated, 31percent had a partial or complete response.  In addition, eight of 11 patients with baseline tumor-associated edema (a buildup of excess serous fluid between tissue cells) had improvement; six had a greater than two centimeter decrease in the circumference of the tumor in an affected limb; five had subjective improvements such as decreased pain or increased mobility and activity.