Apheresis: A potent therapeutic in extracorporeal photopherisis

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Apheresis, the simple process of drawing blood, becomes a powerful therapeutic in extracorporeal photopherisis (ECP) according to clinicians and scientists who met at the NIH State of the Science Symposium in Therapeutic Apheresis. Nora Ratcliffe, MD, of Dartmouth Hitchcock, looked at current methodology and opportunities for research in a paper recently published in Transfusion Medicine Review, titled "National Institutes of Health State of the Science Symposium in Therapeutic Apheresis: Scientific Opportunities in Extracorporeal Photopheresis."

"What we know now about ECP is that it is able to function in more than one way," said Ratcliffe. "It can immunotolerize in the autoreactive setting, and immunize against, in a situation such as lymphoma. This enigma poses tremendous opportunity for future basic science investigation in immunology where cancer applications in bone marrow transplantation and lymphoma will benefit from novel therapeutics."

Currently, ECP is used to treat cancer patients who have cutaneous T-cell lymphoma or in patients with Graft versus Host disease after transplantation. There are many questions about how the therapy works and the best schedules for treating patients.

In the case of ECP, investigators' expanding knowledge of the basic science of immunology is on track to intersect with and inform the questions clinicians have about how best to use the power of ECP to treat patients.

"Like with any emerging therapy, support is essential for the combination of bench science, robust animal models, and clinical trials to drive important strategies like extracorporeal photopherisis forward," Ratcliffe said.

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