Kaposi's sarcoma: The search for the cause

Joel E. Gallant

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: To review the literature on the etiology of Kaposi's sarcoma (KS), and to discuss evidence supporting the current hypothesis that KS is caused by Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) or human herpesvirus-8 (HHV-8). Data Sources: English-language papers dealing with the epidemiology, natural history, and pathogenesis of KS, as well as virology, epidemiology, and clinical manifestations of KSHV/HHV-8, were identified through MEDLINE from 1981 to 1997 and review of abstracts presented at the International Conferences on AIDS, the Interscience Conferences on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, and the Conferences on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections. Study Selection: Weight was assigned in descending order to controlled clinical trials, uncontrolled trials and retrospective studies, and prospective observational studies. Data Synthesis: Although environmental and behavioral explanations for the etiology of KS have been proposed, these hypotheses have not been supported by subsequent research. Genetic and hormonal factors may play a role in the pathogenesis of KS, but are insufficient by themselves to explain the pathogenesis of KS. Similarly, AIDS-related KS cannot be accounted for by the effect of HIV itself. Epidemiologic clues have long pointed to a sexually transmitted infectious agent as a cause for KS. There is now strong evidence supporting the role of a newly discovered virus, KSHV (HHV-8), as a cause for AIDS-related KS, as well as other forms of KS. Conclusions: The epidemiology of HIV-associated KS strongly suggests that a sexually transmitted pathogen is responsible for the etiology of KS. There is growing evidence linking KSHV (HHV-8) with all forms of KS; however, much remains to be learned about the mode of transmission, epidemiology, and natural history of this virus.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)235-243
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1997


  • AIDS
  • Herpesvirus
  • HIV
  • Human sarcoma
  • Kaposi's
  • Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirusvirus 8

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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