Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus
Kaposi's sarcoma (KS) is a type of cancer that can form masses in the skin, lymph nodes, or other organs. The skin lesions are usually purple in color. They can occur singularly, in a limited area, or be widespread. It may worsen either gradually or quickly. Lesions may be flat or raised. Human herpesvirus 8 (HHV8) is found in the lesions of all those who are affected. Risk factors include poor immune function, either as a result of disease or specific medications, and chronic lymphedema.
Treatment is based on the sub-type, whether the condition is localized or widespread, and the person's immune function. Localized skin lesions may be treated by surgery, injections of chemotherapy into the lesion, or radiation therapy. Widespread disease may be treated with chemotherapy or biologic therapy. In those with HIV/AIDS highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) prevents and often treats KS. In certain cases the addition of chemotherapy may be required. With widespread disease, death may occur.
KS lesions are nodules or blotches that may be red, purple, brown, or black, and are usually papular. They are typically found on the skin, but spread elsewhere is common, especially the mouth, gastrointestinal tract and respiratory tract. Growth can range from very slow to explosively fast, and is associated with significant mortality and morbidity. Commonly affected areas include the lower limbs, back, face, mouth, and genitalia. The lesions are usually as described above, but may occasionally be plaque-like (often on the soles of the feet) or even involved in skin breakdown with resulting fungating lesions. Associated swelling may be from either local inflammation or lymphoedema (obstruction of local lymphatic vessels by the lesion). Skin lesions may be quite disfiguring for the sufferer, and a cause of much psychosocial pathology.
After conducting a thorough history and physical examination, further medical testing is warranted. Patients can be stratified into high and low risk. High risk patients include those with visible hematuria or those with non-visible hematuria and risk factors. A complete evaluation of the urinary tract is indicated for hematuria. This includes imaging of the upper urinary tract and cystoscopy of the lower urinary tract.
The mouth is involved in about 30% of cases, and is the initial site in 15% of AIDS-related KS. In the mouth, the hard palate is most frequently affected, followed by the gums. Lesions in the mouth may be easily damaged by chewing and bleed or suffer secondary infection, and even interfere with eating or speaking. Involvement can be common in those with transplant-related or AIDS-related KS, and it may occur in the absence of skin involvement. The gastrointestinal lesions may be silent or cause weight loss, pain, nausea/vomiting, diarrhea, bleeding (either vomiting blood or passing it with bowel motions), malabsorption, or intestinal obstruction.
In Europe and North America, KSHV is transmitted through saliva. Thus, kissing is a theoretical risk factor for transmission. Higher rates of transmission among gay and bisexual men have been attributed to "deep kissing" sexual partners with KSHV. Another alternative theory suggests that use of saliva as a sexual lubricant might be a major mode for transmission. Prudent advice is to use commercial lubricants when needed and avoid deep kissing with partners with KSHV infection or whose status is unknown.
Journal of Clinical Oncology and Cancer Research,