• cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL);
  • erythrodermic CTCL;
  • extracorporeal photochemotherapy;
  • photopheresis

Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL) is an indolent lymphoma usually of CD4+ T lymphocytes in which the aggressive treatment for the advanced stages does not increase survival. Photopheresis has been established as an alternative modality for the therapy of erythrodermic CTCL and reportedly improves survival in patients with advanced stages of the disease. The objective of this study is to review the experience of treating patients with erythrodermic CTCL with extracorporeal photochemotherapy (ECP) at the New York Veteran Affairs Medical Center/NYU Medical Center between September 1987 and April 1997. Forty-one patients with erythrodermic CTCL (stages III and IV) received photopheresis; 25 of them fulfilled the inclusion criterion, i.e., the completion of greater than or equal to 6 cycles of photopheresis. Skin score was defined as a product of severity and percentage of involved surface area. Complete clinical response was defined as disappearance of measurable disease for at least one month, and partial response was defined as greater than or equal to 50% clearance of measurable disease for at least one month. The profile of the patients was: 20 men, 5 women; average age: 64.2 years; 17 patients had stage III disease, and 8 had stage IV disease. Five of the 25 patients (20%) achieved complete clinical response, another 15 (60%) had partial response, and 5 (20%) had no response. The mean time (±SD) to achieve complete clinical clearance was 12.6± 10 months (range: 4–30 months) and the mean time (±SD) to obtain partial clinical response, including complete response, was 9.7±5.3 months (range: 4–17 months). Remission duration ranged from 9 to 67 months. The median survival time from the time of initiation of photopheresis is estimated at 70 months. The complete responder group had a lower median CD4/CD8 ratio compared to the non-responders at baseline (3.8 vs 7.2, respectively), although the difference was not statistically significant (P=0.40). At the time of maximal response, the CD4/CD8 ratio of the complete responder group decreased towards normal values (median= 1.2), whereas this ratio increased among the non-responders (median=11.0; P=0.04). Side effects were minimal. Extracorporeal photochemotherapy is an effective and safe treatment for erythrodermic CTCL. In some of these patients, it can induce a long-term and complete clinical remission.