Treatment of AIDS-related cutaneous Kaposi's sarcoma with topical alitretinoin (9-cis-retinoic acid) gel

Sharon Walmsley, Donald W. Northfelt, Barbara Melosky, Marcus Conant, Alvin E. Friedman-Kien, Bridget Wagner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

90 Scopus citations


Background: Kaposi's sarcoma (KS) is the most frequent malignancy in patients with HIV. Given the promise that retinoids show in the treatment of various hyperproliferative skin disorders and in vitro evidence of inhibition of proliferation of KS cells, a randomized, controlled clinical trial was conducted. Methods and Results: A 12-week, multicenter, randomized, double- blind, vehicle-controlled safety and efficacy evaluation of topical alitretinoin 0.1% gel applied to cutaneous KS lesions was conducted in HIV- infected patients. The primary efficacy endpoint was the patient's response rate, as determined by evaluating six index lesions representative of the patient's overall KS cutaneous disease using AIDS Clinical Trials Group (ACTG) response criteria applied to topical therapy. Of 268 patients entered in the blinded treatment phase of the study (alitretinoin group, n = 134; vehicle group, n = 134), 47 patients (35%) treated with alitretinoin 0.1% gel had a positive response, compared with 24 patients (18%) treated with vehicle gel. Of 184 patients receiving open-label alitretinoin treatment following the blinded phase of the trial, 90 patients (49%) met criteria for a positive response. This superior efficacy of alitretinoin gel over vehicle gel was maintained when the data were adjusted or analyzed for age, race, Karnofsky scores, baseline CD4+ lymphocyte counts, number of raised lesions at baseline, and aggregate area of index lesions. Alitretinoin 0.1% gel was superior to vehicle gel regardless of the number of concurrent antiretroviral therapies. Most adverse events were mild to moderate in severity, limited to the application site, and reversible on reduction in frequency or suspension of application. Relatively few patients (7%) discontinued alitretinoin therapy because of to related adverse events. Conclusions: The results show that alitretinoin gel application is safe and generally well tolerated, and they indicate the superiority of alitretinoin 0.1% gel over vehicle gel in the treatment of cutaneous AIDS-related KS lesions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)235-246
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes and Human Retrovirology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 1 1999


  • 9-cis-retinoic acid
  • AIDS
  • Alitretinoin
  • HIV
  • Kaposi's sarcoma
  • Retinoids

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Virology


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