Virgil Abloh

What Is Cardiac Angiosarcoma? Rare Cancer That Killed Virgil Abloh Put in Spotlight

The disease causes primary and secondary tumors to form in the muscle or blood vessels of the heart, as well as other areas of the body

Virgil Abloh

On Sunday, groundbreaking fashion designer Virgil Abloh died at 41 after privately battling cardiac angiosarcoma for more than two years.

The post on Abloh’s Instagram page that announced his death said he was diagnosed with a “rare, aggressive form of cancer.”

“He chose to endure his battle privately since his diagnosis in 2019, undergoing numerous challenging treatments, all while helming several significant institutions that span fashion, art and culture,” the statement read.

What is cardiac angiosarcoma?

Cardiac sarcomas, which are most frequently diagnosed as angiosarcomas, are tumors that form in the heart, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. The primary cardiac tumor is rare and begins in the vital organ. The secondary cardiac tumor can start in other parts of the body and make its way to the heart. 

According to the National Cancer Institute, angiosarcoma is a rare cancer that develops in the inner lining of blood vessels and lymph vessels. Most often found in the skin, breast, liver and spleen, this cancer can occur anywhere in the body.

The medical institution’s website states that the tumors “may occur on the outside surface of the heart, within one or more chambers of the heart (intracavitary) or within the muscle tissue of the heart.” 

Most cardaic angiosarcomas occur in the right atrium which impacts the inflow or outflow of blood. If the tumor is located on the pericardium — a thin sac that surrounds the heart — then fluid can build up and affect the heart’s ability to pump blood.

Kanye West dedicated the latest installment of his Sunday service to his late friend Virgil Abloh, an artistic director at Louis Vuitton and Off White's CEO, who was a longstanding collaborator of the rapper.

What are some symptoms?

Stanford Health Care lists the swelling of feet, legs, ankles and abdomen as well as distension of the neck veins as some possible symptoms that can occur if the right atrium is obstructed.

Signs that the cardiac angiosarcoma formed on the pericardium include chest pain, shortness of breath, fatigue and palpitations. 

Treatment can become “difficult and challenging” if these symptoms emerge because that means the cardiac sarcoma has spread to other parts of the body, Standard Health Care’s website explains. This happens in 80% of cases. 

The disease can be detected through a variety of tests including an echocardiogram, CT scan, MRI scan and chest X-ray. 

Abloh was a pioneer in the fashion industry as Louis Vuitton’s first and only Black artistic director, a position he held from 2018 until his death. He was hired to oversee the menswear ready wear line. 

In 2013, he founded Off-White, the high-end streetwear fashion house. He is survived by his wife, Shannon, their two children, Lowe and Grey, his sister Edwina and parents Nee and Eunice.

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