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What to Know About Immunotherapy for Kaposi Sarcoma

Immunotherapy is sometimes used to make the body's own immune system fight cancer.

Immunotherapy boosts the body’s immune system to fight the cancer. This treatment is also called biological therapy.

The most common immunotherapy drug for Kaposi sarcoma (KS) is interferon alpha. This drug stops viruses from copying themselves. It also triggers the immune system to fight the virus.

You take an interferon by injection, either into a muscle or just under the skin, usually once a day. It is most effective if you have lesions just on your skin and your immune system is not too suppressed. Your doctor may not recommend this treatment if your CD4 cell count is less than 200 because it can be toxic for people with low CD4 counts. Highly active antiretroviral therapy that decreases HIV viral load and increases CD4 cell counts is an essential companion of immunotherapy for KS. 

Potential side effects from immunotherapy

Interferon alpha can cause any of these side effects:

  • Flulike symptoms, such as tiredness, muscle aches, runny nose, or low-grade fever

  • Abnormal liver enzymes

  • Mood changes or depression

  • Nausea

  • Low blood cell counts 

Online Medical Reviewer: Fetterman, Anne, RN, BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Last Review Date: 2/2/2014
© 2013 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare provider's instructions.