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Kaposi's Sarcoma
Treatment

Four kinds of treatment generally are used to treat patients with Kaposi's sarcoma:

  • Surgery to remove the cancer
  • Chemotherapy, using drugs to kill cancer cells
  • Radiation therapy, using high-dose X-rays to kill cancer cells
  • Biological therapy, using the body's immune system to fight cancer

Surgery

Surgery means removing the cancer. A doctor may remove the cancer using one of the following:

  • Surgically cutting out the lesion and some of the tissue around it
  • Electrodesiccation and curettage to burn the lesion and remove it with a sharp instrument
  • Cryotherapy to freeze the tumor and kill it

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy may be taken by pill or it may be put into the body by a needle in a vein or muscle.

Chemotherapy is called a systemic treatment because the drug enters the bloodstream, travels through the body and can kill cancer cells outside the original site. Because Kaposi's sarcoma is a systemic disease, often developing in several different locations at once, a systemic treatment often is needed.

A safe and fairly effective chemotherapy drug commonly used to treat Kaposi's sarcoma is liposomal doxorubicin, known as Doxil. Chemotherapy for Kaposi's sarcoma also may be injected into the lesion, a treatment called intralesional chemotherapy.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy uses high-dose X-rays or other high-energy rays to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation therapy used to be a common treatment of Kaposi's sarcoma but it is a local treatment for a disease that often is widespread. Another limitation is that it can only be used at each location, yet KS tends to recur.

Biological Therapy

Biological therapy tries to get the body to fight the cancer. It uses materials made by the body or made in a laboratory to boost, direct or restore the body's natural defenses against disease. Biological therapy is sometimes called biological response modifier (BRM) therapy or immunotherapy. Interferon can be useful for some patients with KS, especially if their immune systems are relatively healthy.

Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.