Extracorporeal photopheresis induces apoptosis in the lymphocytes of cutaneous T-cell lymphoma and graft-versus-host disease patients


Mr John Bladon, Department of Haematology, Rotherham General Hospital, South Yorkshire S60 2UD.


Extracorporeal photopheresis (ECP) is used in the treatment of T-cell-mediated disorders. However, the mechanism by which ECP achieves its effect remains illusive. Over recent years the ability of ECP to induce apoptosis has been demonstrated by cell culture experiments and retrospective histological analysis. We investigated if apoptosis could be determined in samples tested ex vivo from the UVAR:ECP system. Lymphocytes from 11 patients (six with cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, four with graft-versus-host disease, and one with scleredema) were isolated at three stages of the ECP process: immediately before ECP treatment, from the first buffy coat collected, and post UV irradiation, prior to re-infusion. Using flow cytometry each stage was tested for the early apoptotic markers; Annexin V, ApoptestTM and Carboxy-SNARF-1-AM. Comparisons of the pre-ECP and pre-infusion samples demonstrated a significant increase in apoptotic lymphocytes for all three flow cytometric techniques (P < 0.01). Increases between the pre-ECP and first buffy coat, used as a measure of the extracorporeal manipulation, were much lower. These results demonstrate that ECP directly induces significant levels of apoptosis in lymphocytes of CTCL, GvHD and scleredema patients. The apoptosis of these lymphocytes may contribute to the ECP effect.