Using Extracorporeal Photopheresis in the Treatment of Graft-Versus-Host Disease

Akhil Kumar, MD
Published: Thursday, Jun 30, 2011
Double HelixExtracorporeal photopheresis (ECP) is a form of apheresis and photodynamic therapy in which blood is treated ex vivo with a photoactivable drug (ie, one that is activated with ultraviolet light). The whole process takes approximately 3 to 4 hours to complete and involves leukapheresis, separation of the buffy coat, photoactivation, and finally reinfusion. ECP has been approved by the FDA for cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL) since 1988.

Causes of GVHD GVHD occurs when immune cells transplanted from a nonidentical donor (the graft) recognize the transplant recipient (the host) as foreign, thereby initiating an immune reaction that causes disease in the transplant recipient. The leading cause of GVHD is allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT), though solid organ transplants, blood transfusions, and maternal-fetal transfusions also reportedly cause GVHD.
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