Photopheresis or extracorporeal photochemotherapy (ECP) is a novel immunomodulatory therapy which involves separation of the patient's leucocyte-rich plasma, followed by ex vivo administration of a photosensitizer and ultraviolet A radiation, before reinfusion. ECP has been used successfully for the treatment of cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL: Sézary syndrome), graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) and cardiac transplant rejection. ECP has a dose-sparing effect on concurrent immunosuppressive therapy. The procedure induces apoptosis of the irradiated lymphocytes, but the exact mechanism by which ECP exerts its therapeutic effect in these different conditions is uncertain. The treatment has very few adverse effects and in particular is not associated with an increased incidence of opportunistic infections. The evidence for the efficacy of ECP has been appraised by a combined British Photodermatology Group and U.K. Skin Lymphoma Group workshop on the basis of evidence published up to the end of 2001 and on the consensus of best practice. There is fair evidence for the use of ECP in erythrodermic CTCL and steroid-refractory GVHD, but randomized controlled studies are needed. There is good evidence supporting the use of ECP in preventing cardiac rejection following transplantation. Randomized controlled trials have also shown a therapeutic benefit in type 1 diabetes mellitus, but the inconvenience associated with the procedure outweighed the clinical benefit. There is fair evidence not to use ECP for the treatment of systemic sclerosis and multiple sclerosis, and good evidence not to use ECP for other forms of CTCL.
- Cardiac transplant rejection
- Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma
- Extracorporeal photochemotherapy
- Graft-versus-host disease
- Sézary syndrome