In 2008 the South African Children’s Cancer Study Group decided to review the epidemiology, management, and chemotherapy response of HIV-positive children with malignancy.
This is a retrospective analysis of data collected from the records of HIV-positive children diagnosed with malignancy at 7 university-based pediatric oncology units serving 8 of the 9 provinces in South Africa.
Two hundred eighty-eight HIV-positive children were diagnosed with 289 malignancies between 1995 and 2009. Age at diagnosis ranged from 17 days to 18.64 years; median 5.79 years. Of the 220 HIV-associated malignancies, there were 97 Kaposi sarcomas, 61 Burkitt lymphomas, 47 other B-cell lymphomas including 2 primary central nervous system lymphomas, 12 Hodgkin lymphomas, and 3 leiomyosarcomas. Sixty-nine patients presented with non–AIDS-defining malignancies. More than 80% presented with advanced disease. Most patients (76.7%) were naive to antiretroviral therapy; 22.2% did not have access because it only became available in public hospitals in 2004. One hundred ninety-seven children were treated with curative intent; 91 received palliative care due to advanced malignancy and/or advanced HIV disease. Nearly one third had coexisting pathology, mostly tuberculosis. Overall survival for the whole group was 33.7%, but was 57.8% for those treated with antiretroviral therapy and chemotherapy.
The study shows more Kaposi sarcoma and fewer primary central nervous system lymphomas among HIV-positive children than that is reported in the developed world, but confirms a higher incidence of non-Burkitt B-cell lymphoma than in HIV-negative children. The high number of non–AIDS-defining malignancies underscores the prevalence of HIV-AIDS in South Africa. The overall survival should improve with universal access to antiretrovirals and earlier diagnosis.