About Photopheresis

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Photopheresis is a procedure that uses ultraviolet light to adjust the immune system. It is used to treat these diseases and conditions:

  • Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma
  • Graft-versus-host disease
  • Transplant organ rejection
  • Certain autoimmune diseases

Some patients who have had a stem cell transplant get graft-versus-host disease. This disease happens when certain white blood cells that grow from the donor stem cells attack and destroy healthy cells in the patient’s body. Photopheresis works in graft-versus-host disease by changing the immune system so it stops attacking the body. Learn more about graft-versus-host disease.

Photopheresis works in treating cutaneous T-cell lymphoma by signaling the immune system to attack the cancer cells.

How Photopheresis is Given

During photopheresis, a technician draws some of the patient’s blood and separates it into red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. The technician treats the white blood cells with ultraviolet light. The red blood cells, platelets, and the treated white blood cells return to the patient through a vein. The treated white blood cells tell the immune system to either stop fighting healthy cells or start fighting cutaneous T-cell lymphoma cells.

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