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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Extracorporeal photopheresis: what is it and when should it be used?

Extracorporeal photopheresis (ECP) is a technique that was developed > 20 years ago to treat erythrodermic cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL). The technique involves removal of peripheral blood, separation of the buffy coat, and photoactivation with a photosensitizer and ultraviolet A irradiation before re-infusion of cells. More than 1000 patients with CTCL have been treated with ECP, with response rates of 31-100%. ECP has been used in a number of other conditions, most widely in the treatment of chronic graft-versus-host disease (cGvHD) with response rates of 29-100%. ECP has also been used in several other autoimmune diseases including acute GVHD, solid organ transplant rejection and Crohn's disease, with some success. ECP is a relatively safe procedure, and side-effects are typically mild and transient. Severe reactions including vasovagal syncope or infections are uncommon. This is very valuable in conditions for which alternative treatments are highly toxic. The mechanism of action of ECP remains elusive. ECP produces a number of immunological changes and in some patients produces immune homeostasis with resultant clinical improvement. ECP is available in seven centres in the UK. Experts from all these centres formed an Expert Photopheresis Group and published the UK consensus statement for ECP in 2008. All centres consider patients with erythrodermic CTCL and steroid-refractory cGvHD for treatment. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence endorsed the use of ECP for CTCL and suggested a need for expansion while recommending its use in specialist centres. ECP is safe, effective, and improves quality of life in erythrodermic CTCL and cGvHD, and should be more widely available for these patients.[1]


  1. Extracorporeal photopheresis: what is it and when should it be used? Scarisbrick, J. Clin. Exp. Dermatol. (2009) [Pubmed]
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