Extracorporeal Photopheresis

Extracorporeal photopheresis is an advanced treatment that can help improve cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL) and graft versus host disease.

Extracorporeal photopheresis is an advanced treatment that can help improve cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL) and graft versus host disease.

Extracorporeal photopheresis (commonly known as ECP) is one of the most effective treatments for many people who have skin problems from advanced cutaneous T-cell lymphoma. It is also often used to treat graft versus host disease — a possible side effect of allogeneic bone marrow transplants (receiving bone marrow from a live donor) in which the recipient's immune system responds negatively to the donor marrow.

How Extracorporeal Photopheresis Works

Extracorporeal photopheresis is a safe and painless procedure done in our cancer infusion center at RUSH University Medical Center.

During the procedure, you will relax for a few hours while your blood is processed and treated. Your blood is drawn and returned through one or two IV catheters. The machine separates your blood into its three different components: white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets.

The treatment targets your white blood cells, the cells that are both affected by CTCL and responsible for the immune response that triggers graft versus host disease. Your white blood cells are treated with a medication and then exposes them to UV light. They are then returned back into your vein.

Extracorporeal photopheresis is not a quick fix. You'll likely need regular treatments several times a week over a period of six months to several years depending on your symptoms. While it's a long-term treatment, it's also incredibly safe and well-tolerated with no real side effects. In fact, many patients report a significant improvement in their symptoms, allowing them to enjoy a better quality of life despite living with these rare conditions.

Benefits of Extracorporeal Photopheresis

For CTCL, the treatment helps regulate your T-cells and improve your CTCL symptoms, making your skin feel less itchy and inflamed.

For graft versus host disease, the treatment can help you tolerate your transplant better and reduces troublesome symptoms of the immune response your body is having to donor stem cells.

RUSH Excellence in Extracorporeal Photopheresis Care

  • On-on-one care: RUSH University Medical Center is one of about 100 of hospitals across the United States that offer extracorporeal photopheresis. And it's one of an even smaller number that offers one-on-one nursing care if you need this treatment. At many other hospitals, one nurse might care for multiple patients having the procedure at the same time. At Rush, you'll have your nurse's undivided attention, which helps ensure your comfort and the quality of your care.
  • Expertise that benefits you: As one of the busiest photopheresis centers in Chicago, RUSH University Medical Center has a long history of success in delivering this treatment. Our providers and nurses specialize in delivering ECP and monitoring your improvements. And as an academic medical center, we are involved in studies and trials looking at new ways to use ECP to help our patients.
  • National accreditation: Our extracorporeal photopheresis specialists work closely with RUSH's bone marrow transplant team for patients experiencing graft versus host disease. Our BMT program provides the highest level of care in the safest way possible. We're fully accredited by the Foundation for the Accreditation of Cellular Therapy (FACT) in recognition of our transplant program's quality and safety.
  • Putting your comfort first: Our cancer infusion center offers private and semi-private infusion bays, each equipped with comfortable seating, wifi, a television — and a compassionate, attentive team of infusion nurses who specialize in cancer care.

One reason that we have a high success rate and high completion rate with photopheresis is that each patient receiving this treatment works one-on-one with a highly trained nurse. We're there with the patient through every treatment, making adjustments and ensuring they remain comfortable throughout the course of treatment.

Danica Uzelac, RN, BSN, CCRC, Nurse Manager