BACKGROUND: Kaposi's sarcoma (KS) is a common HIV-associated malignancy frequently associated with poor outcomes. It is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in major cities of Mozambique. Antiretroviral therapy is the cornerstone of KS treatment, but many patients require cytotoxic chemotherapy. The traditional regimen in Mozambique includes conventional doxorubicin, bleomycin and vincristine, which is poorly tolerated. In 2016, pegylated liposomal doxorubicin was introduced at a specialized outpatient center in Maputo, Mozambique.
METHODS: We performed a prospective, single-arm, open-label observational study to demonstrate the feasibility, safety, and outcomes of treatment with pegylated liposomal doxorubicin (PLD) in patients with AIDS-associated Kaposi sarcoma (KS) in a low-resource setting. Chemotherapy-naïve adults with AIDS-associated KS (T1 or T0 not responding to 6 months of antiretroviral therapy) were eligible if they were willing to follow up for 2 years. Patients with Karnofsky scores < 50 or contraindications to PLD were excluded. One hundred eighty-three patients were screened and 116 participants were enrolled. Patients received PLD on three-week cycles until meeting clinical stopping criteria. Follow-up visits monitored HIV status, KS disease, side effects of chemotherapy, mental health (PHQ-9) and quality of life (SF-12). Primary outcome measures included vital status and disease status at 6, 12, and 24 months after enrollment.
RESULTS: At 24 months, 23 participants (20%) had died and 15 (13%) were lost to follow-up. Baseline CD4 < 100 was associated with death (HR 2.7, 95%CI [1.2-6.2], p = 0.016), as was T1S1 disease compared to T1S0 disease (HR 2.7, 95%CI [1.1-6.4], p = 0.023). Ninety-two participants achieved complete or partial remission at any point (overall response rate 80%), including 15 (13%) who achieved complete remission. PLD was well-tolerated, and the most common AEs were neutropenia and anemia. Quality of life improved rapidly after beginning PLD.
DISCUSSION: PLD was safe, well-tolerated and effective as first-line treatment of KS in Mozambique. High mortality was likely due to advanced immunosuppression at presentation, underscoring the importance of earlier screening and referral for KS.