Kaposi’s sarcoma in children: An open randomised trial of vincristine, oral etoposide and a combination of vincristine and bleomycin

Published:March 17, 2014DOI:



      Kaposi’s sarcoma (KS) is a common childhood cancer in places where HIV is endemic and access to antiretroviral therapy (ART) is delayed. Despite this there are no randomised trials to compare and assess chemotherapeutic regimens.


      An open label, randomised trial comparing intravenous vincristine alone, vincristine and bleomycin and oral etoposide, was carried out in children with Kaposi’s sarcoma in the Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital, Blantyre, Malawi. HIV infected children were given ART after 2–3 courses of chemotherapy if they were not already on treatment. Neither HIV nor widespread KS are curable and treatment is aimed at disease reduction and improved quality of life. Tumour reduction was assessed by measuring the size of sentinel KS nodules and quality of life (QoL) by using the Lansky score. Follow up was until death or for one year.


      92 children were enrolled of whom 46% were naïve to ART; 10 (11%) were HIV negative. Survival was not influenced by age or gender but was better in the oral etoposide and the vincristine and bleomycin groups. P = 0.0045. The group receiving oral etoposide had a better quality of life. Toxicity was not significant, and any drop in haemoglobin or white cell count could have been causally related to HIV infection rather than cytotoxic therapy.


      Oral etoposide is a safe, effective treatment to contain KS and improve QoL which can be achieved without many visits to the hospital and intravenous injections.


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