Photopheresis or extracorporeal photopheresis (ECP) is a specialized therapeutic apheresis composed of 3 basic steps:

  • Apheresis collection of white cells from patient
  • Extracorporeal treatment of white cells with a photoactive chemical (“psoralen”) in the presence of Ultraviolet-A (UV-A) light
  • Reinfusion of the photoactivated white cells back to the patient

Although the exact therapeutic mechanism of ECP remains unknown, the photoactivated white cells are thought to be involved in establishing immune tolerance. Indications for ECP include cutaneous T-cell lymphoma and various other T-cell mediated processes (such as acute or chronic graft-vs-host disease after hematopoietic stem cell transplants, heart or lung transplant rejection, and scleroderma). Other potential future uses include Crohn’s Disease, psoriasis, and scleroderma. In the U.S., there is only one medical device manufacturer that produces FDA-cleared apheresis devices for this procedure.

Written by Dr. Tuan Le, 2011.

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