Treatment of Kaposi Sarcoma

There are different types of treatment for patients with Kaposi sarcoma. Some treatments are standard (the currently used treatment), and some are being tested in clinical trials. Treatment of epidemic Kaposi sarcoma combines treatment for Kaposi sarcoma with treatment for AIDS. For the treatment of epidemic Kaposi sarcoma, highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) is used to slow the progression of AIDS. HAART may be combined with anticancer drugs and medicines that prevent and treat infections. Four types of standard treatment are used to treat Kaposi sarcoma:

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy is a cancer treatment that uses high-energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing. There are two types of radiation therapy. The way the radiation therapy is given depends on the type of cancer being treated. External radiation therapy uses a machine outside the body to send radiation toward the cancer. Certain types of external radiation therapy are used to treat Kaposi sarcoma lesions. Internal radiation therapy uses a radioactive substance sealed in needles, seeds, wires, or catheters that are placed directly into or near the cancer. Photon radiation therapy treats lesions with high-energy light. Electron beam radiation therapy uses tiny negatively charged particles called electrons. Photon radiation therapy and electron beam radiation therapy will kill cancer cells near the surface of the body without harming deeper tissues and bone.


The following surgical procedures may be used for Kaposi sarcoma to treat small, surface lesions:
  • Local excision: The cancer is cut from the skin along with a small amount of normal tissue around it.
  • Electrodessication and curettage: The tumor is cut from the skin with a curette (a sharp, spoon-shaped tool). A needle-shaped electrode is then used to treat the area with an electric current that stops the bleeding and destroys cancer cells that remain around the edge of the wound. The process may be repeated one to three times during the surgery to remove all of the cancer.
  • Cryosurgery: A treatment that uses an instrument to freeze and destroy abnormal tissue. This type of treatment is also called cryotherapy.


Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. The way the chemotherapy is given depends on the type of the cancer being treated. Systemic chemotherapy-– When chemotherapy is taken by mouth or injected into a vein or muscle, the drugs enter the bloodstream and can reach cancer cells throughout the body, it is called systemic chemotherapy. Regional chemotherapy— When chemotherapy is placed directly an organ, or a body cavity such as the abdomen, it is called regional chemotherapy. Intralesional chemotherapy–To treat local Kaposi sarcoma lesions, such as in the mouth, anticancer drugs may be injected directly into the lesion, this is called Intralesional chemotherapy. Liposomal chemotherapy carries anticancer drugs in liposomes (very tiny fat particles). Liposomal chemotherapy builds up in Kaposi sarcoma tissue more than in healthy tissue, and is slowly released. This increases the effect of the drug and causes less damage to healthy tissue. Sometimes the chemotherapy is given as a topical agent (applied to the skin as a gel.)

Biologic Therapy

Biologic therapy is a treatment that uses the patient’s immune system to fight cancer. Substances made by the body or made in a laboratory are used to boost, direct, or restore the body’s natural defenses against cancer. This type of cancer treatment is also called biotherapy or immunotherapy. Interferon alfa is a biologic agent used to treat Kaposi sarcoma.

Clinical Trial

A clinical trial is a research study meant to help improve current treatments or obtain information on new treatments for patients with cancer. When clinical trials show that a new treatment is better than the standard treatment, the new treatment may become the standard treatment. Some clinical trials are open only to patients who have not started treatment. New types of treatment are being tested in clinical trials.


Some of the tests that were done to diagnose the cancer or to find out the stage of the cancer may be repeated. Some tests will be repeated in order to see how well the treatment is working. Decisions about whether to continue change, or stop treatment may be based on the results of these tests. This is sometimes called re-staging. Some of the tests will continue to be done from time to time after treatment has ended. The results of these tests can show if your condition has changed or if the cancer has recurred (come back). These tests are sometimes called follow-up tests or check-ups. Contact us to request an appointment with one of the oncologists at Diablo Valley Oncology discuss the treatment options available to treat your Kaposi sarcoma.