A risk and benefit assessment of treatment for AIDS-related Kaposi's sarcoma

Guglielmo Nasti, Domenico Errante, Sandra Santarossa, Emmanuela Vaccher, Umberto Tirelli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Kaposi's sarcoma is the most common malignancy observed in patients with HIV-1 infection, and causes considerable morbidity and, when the lungs are involved, mortality. Therapy should be based on an evaluation of prognostic factors, in particular the extent and rate of tumour growth, patient symptoms, immune system condition and concurrent complications of AIDS. Nevertheless, considering the palliative role of Kaposi's sarcoma therapy, the potential benefits of therapy must be weighed against the high risk of adverse effects. Therefore, quality of life assessment is an integral component of therapeutic decisions. Localised Kaposi's sarcoma cutaneous tumours have been successfully treated with surgical excision, laser therapy, liquid nitrogen cryotherapy and radiotherapy. In patients with moderately extensive cutaneous or mucosal disease and CD4+ cell counts of ≥ 200/ml, immunotherapy and antiretroviral drugs are indicated. Preliminary results indicate that antiretroviral therapy might be effective and well tolerated in the treatment of less advanced Kaposi's sarcoma. In patients with aggressive and extensive mucocutaneous disease or with visceral manifestations of Kaposi's sarcoma, systemic cytotoxic therapy is indicated. However, the optimal treatment has yet to be found. The combination of doxorubicin, bleomycin and vincristine (ABV) has produced high overall response rates and is indicated as first-line treatment for patients with life-threatening or visceral disease. In patients who are leucopenic and require chemotherapy, single or dual agents associated with lower myelotoxicity [i.e. bleomycin, vincristine/vinblastine or a combination of bleomycin and vincristine/vinblastine (BV)] are most widely used. Other effective cytotoxic regimens are liposomal anthracyclines, paclitaxel and vinorelbine. To date, 3 randomised trials have compared these drugs to ABV and BV. In a large phase III study, the efficacy of liposomal daunorubicin was comparable with that of ABV. In 2 phase III studies, liposomal doxorubicin was compared with ABV and BV regimens and was found to be significantly more effective in producing objective responses. Therefore, liposomal doxorubicin, although more myelosuppressive than the BV regimen, is now considered by many physicians as the first-line therapy in patients with advanced stage Kaposi's sarcoma. Paclitaxel and vinorelbine have potential in Kaposi's sarcoma, but additional studies are needed to evaluate different schedules and to compare their activity with that of the reference regimens. Institution or continuation of both effective antiretroviral therapy and prophylaxis of opportunistic infections should be recommended to all patients receiving systemic cytotoxic therapies. However, attention must be paid to the cross-toxicity and possible pharmacokinetic interactions between antiretrovirals and antineoplastics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)403-425
Number of pages23
JournalDrug Safety
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Pharmacology
  • Toxicology


Dive into the research topics of 'A risk and benefit assessment of treatment for AIDS-related Kaposi's sarcoma'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this