Cardiac Angiosarcoma Symptoms Explained As Virgil Abloh, Off-White Founder, Dies

Influential American fashion designer Virgil Abloh died on Sunday after suffering from a rare, progressive form of cancer known as cardiac angiosarcoma.

The death of the 41-year-old, who was the creative director for Louis Vuitton and founder of luxury label Off-White, was announced on his official Instagram account.

"We are devastated to announce the passing of our beloved Virgil Abloh, a fiercely devoted father, husband, son, brother, and friend," the statement said, noting that the designer had "valiantly battled" the cancer for more than two years.

"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 said.

"Through it all, his work ethic, infinite curiosity, and optimism never wavered. Virgil was driven by his dedication to his craft and to his mission to open doors for others and create pathways for greater equality in art and design. He often said, 'Everything I do is for the 17-year-old version of myself,' believing deeply in the power of art to inspire future generations."

What is cardiac angiosarcoma?

Angiosarcoma is a rare type of soft tissue sarcoma—a broad group of cancers that form in the tissues that connect, support and surround other body structures.

Angiosarcoma develops in the the inner lining of blood vessels and lymph vessels. It can occur anywhere in the body, but is most commonly seen in the skin, breast, liver and spleen, according to the National Cancer Institute.

In the case of cardiac angiosarcoma, the cancer affects the heart. Nearly 90 percent of primary cardiac angiosarcoma tumors—meaning those that begin in the heart—occur in the right atrium, one of the organ's four chambers, according to a paper published in the journal Medical Science Monitor.

These kinds of cancers grow quickly and can spread to other parts of the body, most commonly the lungs.

What are the symptoms of cardiac angiosarcoma?

Symptoms of cardiac angiosarcoma can vary depending on where in the heart the cancer is located. Many people do not experience any symptoms until the cancer has spread to other parts of the body when the disease is in its advanced stages.

Symptoms may include breathlessness, chest pain, tiredness and fainting. In some cases, a small piece of the tumor can break off, resulting in a clump or clot that blocks a blood vessel—known as an embolism.

If the embolism travels through the bloodstream it can result in blockages near the heart causing pain, or in the brain, which can lead to a stroke.

Fashion designer Virgil Abloh
Virgil Abloh outside Louis Vuitton Parfum Hosts Dinner at Fondation Louis Vuitton on July 5, 2021 in Paris, France. Abloh passed away on Sunday after suffering from a rare form of cancer. Christian Vierig/Getty Images