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J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2005 Apr;60(4):520-3.

Aggressive behavior of classical Kaposi's sarcoma and coexistence with angiosarcoma.

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  • 1Centro Medicina Invecchiamento, Dipartimento di Scienze Gerontologiche, Geriatriche e Fisiatriche, Universit√† Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Largo Agostino Gemelli, 8, 00168 Rome, Italy.


An 82-year-old Caucasian man presented with initially asymptomatic livid red plaques on the plantar surface of the feet that become confluent and evolved into invasively growing nodules accompanied by massive edema. Histology allowed a diagnosis of the classical form of Kaposi's sarcoma; the serology test result for HIV was negative, whereas the associated human herpes virus type 8 was detected by polymerase chain reaction on the skin sample. Over the subsequent 6 months, skin lesions become vegetative and partially necrotic, and extended to the hands and eyelids. Chemotherapy with vinblastine appeared to stabilize the cutaneous disease, but the patient developed a massive gastrointestinal hemorrhage secondary to dissemination to the stomach. Twelve months after the onset of the disease, vegetative and easily bleeding lesions progressively occluded the mouth of the patient: histological features were consistent with a low-grade angiosarcoma distinct from that of Kaposi's sarcoma. The patient could not chew and swallow anymore; he was put on an artificial nutrition but died shortly thereafter. This case illustrates that, even in its classical form, Kaposi's sarcoma may be a malignant, rapidly progressing tumor.


a) The extent and rate of spread of initial skin lesions should be considered to be early signs of aggressive dissemination, even in the absence of other variables (i.e., histological pattern, human herpes virus type 8 positive mononuclear cells) associated with progression of the disease. b) An endoscopy may be useful given the high prevalence of gastrointestinal involvement. c) When classical Kaposi's sarcoma displays aggressive behavior a second, primary malignant tumor arising from the vascular tissue should be investigated.


Even in its classical form, Kaposi's sarcoma may be a malignant, rapidly progressing tumor with visceral involvement; also, a second malignancy may occur in nearly one patient of four. Because localized skin lesions can regress completely with radiotherapy, watchful waiting is probably inappropriate in most cases.

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