AIDS-Related Cancer Triggered by Cut: Report
April 26, 2002
The case of an HIV-positive patient who developed Kaposi's sarcoma (KS) at a biopsy site suggests that patients may develop the cancer following some type of incision, cut or tissue injury, according to a report in the April 18th issue of the New England Journal of Medicine (2002;346:1207-1210).
The case study describes the experience of an HIV-positive man, 38, who underwent minor surgery to remove salivary gland tissue. A few days later, he returned with a mass inside his lip growing at the biopsy site. Doctors administered antibiotics to prevent infection, but the patient soon returned when the mass had grown, reporting that pain stretched down his neck. The doctors then performed a biopsy of the new mass and discovered it was KS. Once KS was discovered, it was treated with radiation. The patient has now been free of the disease for more than two years.
KS is characterized by reddish, raised tumors that develop under the skin or in mucus membranes, such as those lining the nose, mouth or anus. In some cases, the lesions can be painful or can cause swelling in nearby tissues. The cancer is thought to be caused by human herpesvirus 8 (HHV-8), which lies dormant in healthy people but can become active in those with weakened immune systems.
The report suggests that when the patient underwent surgery, certain healing cells gathered at the incision site to repair the tissue -- but it seems these cells were infected with HHV-8. Prior to the biopsy, tests revealed HHV-8 in the patient's saliva, but the virus was absent from his blood and salivary glands.
"In this case, both viral infection and wound healing appeared to play a part in the development of Kaposi's sarcoma," wrote Dr. Jennifer Webster-Cyriaque of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Establishing that an incision or some type of cut may also be needed to spark KS would explain why, after surgery, some patients develop KS in the places they received sutures.
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.