Kaposi Sarcoma: Immunotherapy


What is immunotherapy?

Immunotherapy is also called biologic therapy. It is a type of treatment that boosts your immune system to help it recognize and attack cancer cells. It does this using man-made versions of substances that are normally made in the body and boost the immune system.

When might immunotherapy be used to treat Kaposi sarcoma?

Immunotherapy is not a common treatment for Kaposi sarcoma (KS). It doesn't work well in people with AIDS. Still, it might be used if other treatments aren't working or KS comes back after treatment. It's most likely to be helpful if the KS is only on the skin and the person has a fairly healthy immune system.

What immunotherapy medicines are used to treat Kaposi sarcoma?

The main immunotherapy medicine used to treat KS is a man-made version of interferon-alfa. Interferon-alfa is a chemical in the body that normally helps boost the immune system. It's thought to help the immune system fight off viral infections. 

How is immunotherapy given?

Interferon-alfa is given daily as a shot (injection). It's injected either into a muscle (intramuscular, or IM) or under the skin (subcutaneous, or sub-q). You or a caregiver can learn to give these shots at home. 

What are common side effects of immunotherapy?

Interferon-alfa often causes flu-like symptoms, such as fever, fatigue, weakness, and muscle pain. People often feel sick while getting this treatment, which is 1 of the reasons it's not used often. It can also cause liver problems, low blood cell counts, and confusion or mood changes. 

Working with your healthcare provider

It's important to know which medicines you're taking. Write your medicines down, and ask your healthcare team how they work and what side effects they might have.

Talk with your healthcare providers about what signs to look for and when to call them. Make sure you know what number to call with questions. Is there a different number for evenings and weekends?

It may be helpful to keep a diary of your side effects. A written list will make it easier for you to remember your questions when you go to your appointments. It will also make it easier for you to work with your healthcare team to make a plan to manage your side effects.

Online Medical Reviewer: Kimberly Stump-Sutliff RN MSN AOCNS
Online Medical Reviewer: Lu Cunningham
Online Medical Reviewer: Richard LoCicero MD
Date Last Reviewed: 12/1/2018
© 2021 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare provider's instructions.