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Blood. 2000 Oct 1;96(7):2426-31.

Extracorporeal photochemotherapy in the treatment of severe steroid-refractory acute graft-versus-host disease: a pilot study.

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  • 1Department of Medicine I, Bone Marrow Transplantation Unit, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria.


Extracorporeal exposure of peripheral blood mononuclear cells to the photosensitizing agent 8-methoxypsoralen and UV-A radiation has been shown to be effective in the treatment of selected diseases mediated by T cells, rejection after solid organ transplantation, and chronic graft-versus-host disease (GVHD). We present 21 patients with a median age of 38 years who developed steroid-refractory acute GVHD grades II to IV after stem cell grafting from sibling or unrelated donors and were referred to extracorporeal photochemotherapy (ECP). Three months after initiation of ECP 60% of patients achieved a complete resolution of GVHD manifestations. Complete responses were obtained in 100% of patients with grade II, 67% of patients with grade III, and 12% of patients with grade IV acute GVHD. Three months after start of ECP complete responses were achieved in 60% of patients with cutaneous, 67% with liver, and none with gut involvement. Adverse events observed during ECP included a decrease in peripheral blood cell counts in the early phase after stem cell transplantation (SCT). Currently, 57% of patients are alive at a median observation time of 25 months after SCT. Probability of survival at 4 years after SCT is 91% in patients with complete response to ECP compared to 11% in patients not responding completely. Our findings suggest that ECP is an effective adjunct therapy for acute steroid-refractory GVHD with cutaneous and liver involvement. However, in patients with acute GVHD grade IV or gut involvement other therapeutic options are warranted.

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