Systemic treatment of AIDS-related Kaposi's sarcoma: results of a randomized trial

Am J Med. 1991 Apr;90(4):427-33.


Purpose: Patients with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS)-related epidemic Kaposi's sarcoma generally respond well to cytotoxic chemotherapy. However, due to the associated myelosuppression, these patients are at risk for developing complicating infections that may affect survival. We therefore conducted a multi-center randomized clinical trial comparing single-agent against combination chemotherapy in advanced AIDS-related Kaposi's sarcoma. Low-dose chemotherapy was employed to evaluate its role in combination therapy for this disease and the toxicities associated with the lower intensity.

Patients and methods: Sixty-one patients with extensive mucocutaneous Kaposi's sarcoma or visceral involvement were randomized for treatment with low-dose Adriamycin (doxorubicin, 20 mg/m2) alone (31 cases) or in combination with bleomycin and vincristine (ABV) (30 cases). Patients were randomized within strata based on prognostic features associated with shorter survival in prior studies. Both treatment arms were evenly matched at study entry.

Results: Complete and partial tumor remissions were significantly higher with ABV (88%) than with Adriamycin alone (48%) (p = 0.004). The median survival was 9 months in both groups. Study entry criteria significantly associated with shorter survival included CD4 lymphocyte counts less than 100/mm3, hemoglobin level less than 10 g/dL, a history of constitutional symptoms, and a prior history of opportunistic infection(s). Toxicities were similar in both arms, and the regimens were well tolerated. Neutropenia (granulocyte count less than 1,000/mm3) occurred in 34% of patients receiving Adriamycin alone and in 52% of patients receiving ABV and was progressive in successive courses of chemotherapy in both treatment arms. The development of AIDS-defined opportunistic infections was relatively infrequent during therapy (14%).

Conclusions: Low-dose ABV is an effective chemotherapy regimen for the treatment of extensive Kaposi's sarcoma. ABV chemotherapy is associated with significantly higher responses than Adriamycin alone and with acceptable toxicity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / complications*
  • Adult
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / adverse effects
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / therapeutic use*
  • Bleomycin / administration & dosage
  • Doxorubicin / administration & dosage
  • Doxorubicin / adverse effects
  • Doxorubicin / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prognosis
  • Sarcoma, Kaposi / complications
  • Sarcoma, Kaposi / drug therapy*
  • Sarcoma, Kaposi / mortality
  • Vincristine / administration & dosage


  • Bleomycin
  • Vincristine
  • Doxorubicin