What is the role of topical medications in the treatment of Kaposi sarcoma (KS)?

Updated: Apr 11, 2019
  • Author: Jessica Katz, MD, PhD, FACP; Chief Editor: Edwin Choy, MD, PhD  more...
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Topical therapies

Interleukin-6 (IL-6) is a cytokine implicated in the pathogenesis of Kaposi sarcoma. In vitro, retinoic acid down-regulates IL-6 receptor expression. A 0.1% alitretinoin gel (Panretin) is available commercially and may be applied topically 2-4 times daily. This agent is generally well tolerated but may cause local erythema and irritation. It induces responses in one third to one half of the patients after 2-14 weeks of therapy. [31]  Common side effects include local inflammation and depigmentation.

Imiquimod, a topical immune response modulator, has shown safety and efficacy in patients with limited cutaneous classic or transplant-associated Kaposi sarcoma. A phase I/II trial of 17 patients showed a 47% response rate in 17 patients receiving imiquimod 5% cream 3 times per week for 24 weeks. [102]

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