Story at a glance

  • Fashion designer Virgil Abloh died on Sunday after suffering from a rare form of heart cancer.
  • Called cardiac angiosarcoma, the cancer restricts blood flow to the heart.
  • The Mayo Clinic says on average it only receives one patient a year with heart cancer.

On Sunday, news of fashion designer Virgil Abloh’s death rocked the internet as the public learned for the first time that the designer suffered from a rare form of cancer.

AP


Cardiac angiosarcoma, a rare cancer that occurs in the heart, took the life of 41-year-old Abloh on Sunday. According to a post on Abloh’s Instagram page, the designer suffered from the rare cancer for two years.

Cardiac angiosarcoma is a type of cancerous tumor that occurs in the heart. It can start in the heart, called a primary cardiac tumor, or start somewhere else in the body and spread to the heart, a secondary cardiac tumor, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.

The symptoms of the rare cancer vary depending on which part of the body the tumor resides in, but most cases occur in the right atrium of the heart. In those cases, people may experience swelling in the feet, legs, ankles and/or abdomen.


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In some cases, tiny pieces of cardiac sarcomas (emboli) may break off and can restrict blood flow to other parts of the body. That can cause pain and damage to organs, according to Johns Hopkins. If emboli affects the brain it can cause a stroke, if it moves to the lungs it can cause respiratory distress and/or other problems around the body’s organs and body parts.

Treatment options for cardiac angiosarcoma are challenging, as it depends largely on the location of the tumor and how often it spreads to other parts of the body. 

Open heart surgery, heart transplant and autotransplantation, a new type of heart transplant surgery, are all options for those suffering with cardiac angiosarcoma. 

This type of cancer is considered extremely rare, with the Mayo Clinic reporting it sees on average only one patient a year with heart cancer. 

The specific details on Abloh’s diagnosis aren’t clear, only that he was first diagnosed in 2019. He leaves behind a wife and two children.

Abloh quickly grew to fame when he established streetwear brand Off-White in 2012 and served as artistic director for luxury fashion brand Louis Vuitton.


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Published on Nov 29, 2021