|Is Kaposi's sarcoma a cancer or a herpes infection?
Oct 14, 2001
I have read that KS is not cancer at all but a type of herpes virus called herpes-8. If this is so, why do they prescribe chemotherpy for it? Should they use something like acylovir, the stuff that is used for herpes-2?
Response from Dr. Dezube
The question as to whether Kaposi's sarcoma (KS) is a cancer or a herpes virus infection is a good one. Basically KS is both a cancer AND an infection. Under the microscope KS looks like a cancer to a pathologist. That said, the real question is how does KS form. It turns out that for a patient to develop KS, one needs to be infected with human herpes virus-8 (HHV-8). The fact that HHV-8 causes cancer is not all that surprising in that many viruses are known to cause cancer. [The human papilloma virus can cause both cervical and anal cancer; the hepatitis B virus can cause liver cancer].
Although I can understand your query about acyclovir, the drug for herpes simplex and herpes zoster infection, it turns out that acyclovir will not work against HHV-8. No such luck.
So in short, HHV-8 is a virus which can lead to a cancer. It actually causes other types of cancer in addition to KS. However, it is very important to understand that the vast majority of folks who are infected with HHV-8 do NOT develop cancer.
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