Overall Incidence of Kaposi’s Sarcoma in 2003 Only 10% of 1994 Incidence Due to Antiretroviral Drug Use, Study Says
The number of HIV/AIDS patients diagnosed with Kaposi's sarcoma -- once a common cancer among people living with AIDS -- has dropped dramatically because of the use of antiretroviral drugs, according to a study published in the May 10 online edition of the American Cancer Society's journal Cancer, Reuters reports. Researchers from the Royal Free and University College Medical School in London and colleagues from other European hospitals and health centers examined nearly 10,000 HIV-positive people and found that there was a 39% annual reduction in KS incidence between 1994 and 2003. Although anecdotal evidence and small studies have suggested that the number of KS cases has declined because antiretroviral drugs suppress HIV levels in patients' blood and allow their immune systems to recover, this is the first "conclusive indication" of a link between treatment and declining incidence, according to Reuters. The researchers said that patients in the study who had higher CD4+ T cell counts -- a measure of immune system function -- or who had been on highly active antiretroviral therapy for a longer period of time were least likely to develop KS. "This indicates that the current CD4 count remains one of the most important prognostic factors for Kaposi's sarcoma, and patients who start HAART should experience a reduction in the risk of Kaposi's sarcoma if the CD4 count starts to rise," the researchers said. KS causes brownish-colored skin lesions but also can cause lesions on the lungs, liver or other organs. The cancer accounts for about 6% of all AIDS-defining illnesses each year, according to Reuters (Simao, Reuters, 5/10). The current incidence of KS among people with HIV is less than 10% of the incidence reported in 1994, but the authors noted that "[t]here continues to be an increased incidence of KS among homosexual men" (Mocroft et al., Cancer, 5/10).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.