Phase III vehicle-controlled, multi-centered study of topical alitretinoin gel 0.1% in cutaneous AIDS-related Kaposi's sarcoma

Am J Clin Dermatol. 2001;2(2):77-87. doi: 10.2165/00128071-200102020-00004.


Objective: This randomized, double-blind and vehicle-controlled phase III study was conducted to evaluate the efficacy and safety of alitretinoin gel 0.1% for the topical treatment of the cutaneous lesions of AIDS-related Kaposi's sarcoma (KS).

Methods: Patients received treatment with alitretinoin gel (n = 62) or vehicle gel (n = 72) twice daily for 12 weeks. The primary efficacy endpoint was the cutaneous KS tumor response rate according to AIDS Clinical Trials Group (ACTG) objective criteria applied to topical therapy, with the patient as the unit of analysis.

Results: Treatment of patients with alitretinoin gel resulted in a significant antitumor effect. The overall patient response rate (complete plus partial response) was 37% (23 of 62) for the alitretinoin-treated patients and 7% (5 of 72) for the vehicle-treated patients (p = 0.00003). The difference in response rates for the 2 treatment groups remained significant even after taking into consideration numerous variables, including age (p = 0.00001), Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG) status (p = 0.00002), CD4+ cell count (p = 0.00002), history of opportunistic infection (p = 0.00002), aggregate area of indicator lesions (p = 0.00005), number of raised indicator lesions (p = 0.00002), prior therapy for KS (p = 0.00003), and number of drugs (p = 0.00002) used in concomitant antiretroviral therapy. Generally, treatment with alitretinoin gel was well tolerated. The overall incidence of adverse events was similar for the 2 treatment groups. Adverse events related to treatment with alitretinoin gel tended to be mild to moderate in severity and limited to the site of application. The most frequent adverse event occurring at the application site following alitretinoin gel treatment was irritation coded as rash (32%).

Conclusions: The results of this study provide convincing evidence of the superiority of alitretinoin gel over vehicle gel for the treatment of the cutaneous lesions of AIDS-related KS.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Clinical Trial, Phase III
  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Topical
  • Adult
  • Alitretinoin
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Female
  • Gels
  • Herpesvirus 8, Human / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Palliative Care*
  • Pharmaceutical Vehicles / therapeutic use
  • Sarcoma, Kaposi / drug therapy*
  • Skin Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Tretinoin / therapeutic use*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Gels
  • Pharmaceutical Vehicles
  • Alitretinoin
  • Tretinoin