Kaposi's sarcoma: Etiology and pathogenesis, inducing factors, causal associations, and treatments: Facts and controversies

Eleonora Ruocco, Vincenzo Ruocco, Maria Lina Tornesello, Alessio Gambardella, Ronni Wolf, Franco M. Buonaguro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Kaposi's sarcoma (KS), an angioproliferative disorder, has a viral etiology and a multifactorial pathogenesis hinged on an immune dysfunction. The disease is multifocal, with a course ranging from indolent, with only skin manifestations to fulminant, with extensive visceral involvement. In the current view, all forms of KS have a common etiology in human herpesvirus (HHV)-8 infection, and the differences among them are due to the involvement of various cofactors. In fact, HHV-8 infection can be considered a necessary but not sufficient condition for the development of KS, because further factors (genetic, immunologic, and environmental) are required. The role of cofactors can be attributed to their ability to interact with HHV-8, to affect the immune system, or to act as vasoactive agents. In this contribution, a survey of the current state of knowledge on many and various factors involved in KS pathogenesis is carried out, in particular by highlighting the facts and controversies about the role of some drugs (quinine analogues and angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors) in the onset of the disease. Based on these assessments, it is possible to hypothesize that the role of cofactors in KS pathogenesis can move toward an effect either favoring or inhibiting the onset of the disease, depending on the presence of other agents modulating the pathogenesis itself, such as genetic predisposition, environmental factors, drug intake, or lymph flow disorders. It is possible that the same agents may act as either stimulating or inhibiting cofactors according to the patient's genetic background and variable interactions. Treatment guidelines for each form of KS are outlined, because a unique standard therapy for all of them cannot be considered due to KS heterogeneity. In most cases, therapeutic options, both local and systemic, should be tailored to the patient's peculiar clinical conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)413-422
Number of pages10
JournalClinics in Dermatology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Dermatology


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