Extracorporeal photopheresis (ECP) in the treatment of chronic graft-versus-host disease (GVHD)

Bone Marrow Transplant. 1999 May;23(9):881-7. doi: 10.1038/sj.bmt.1701733.


The aim of our study was to assess the efficacy of extracorporeal photopheresis (ECP) in chronic graft-versus-host disease (GVHD). Eleven patients with chronic cutaneous GVHD were studied. Four had mucosal involvement and five had pulmonary involvement. All had failed to improve on first- and second-line therapy. Three patients received ECP alone; the remainder continued to receive steroids and/or immunosuppressive therapy. Patients received ECP twice monthly for 4 months and then once monthly for 3 months. They were evaluated by serial skin scores, mucosal and skin photography, pulmonary function tests, biochemical and haematological parameters. Nine patients showed objective evidence of cutaneous improvement with a mean reduction in skin score of 48% overall. In the 10th patient, skin scores and oral involvement improved on twice monthly ECP but deteriorated when reduced to once monthly. The final patient died from renal failure secondary to cyclosporin toxicity. Two out of five patients with lung involvement showed a mild improvement in pulmonary function tests. Liver function tests were abnormal in five patients; they improved in one and deteriorated in three. All patients receiving concomitant immunosuppressive/steroid therapy were able to reduce drug dosages by trial completion. Our results indicate that ECP can benefit patients with cutaneous and mucosal chronic GVHD who have failed on first- and second-line therapies. The effect on the systemic manifestations of GVHD is less consistent.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Bone Marrow Transplantation* / adverse effects
  • Chronic Disease
  • Graft vs Host Disease / etiology
  • Graft vs Host Disease / therapy*
  • Hematologic Neoplasms / therapy
  • Histocompatibility Testing
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Photopheresis*
  • Transplantation, Homologous
  • Treatment Outcome