Biological quality control for extracorporeal photochemotherapy: Assessing mononuclear cell apoptosis levels in ECP bags of chronic GvHD patients

Francesca Taverna, Paola Coluccia, Flavio Arienti, Annalisa Birolini, Laura Terranova, Arabella Mazzocchi, Francesca Rini, Luigi Mariani, Cecilia Melani, Fernando Ravagnani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Extracorporeal photochemotherapy (ECP) is a treatment approved by the FDA for cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, and it is currently used off-label for graft-versus-host disease (GvHD) and other conditions. In agreement with good practices for the therapeutic use of human cells, quality control has to be performed to validate the ECP procedure with the off-line technique. Since no gold-standard biological test is available, we assessed the apoptosis generated in the ECP bag using a flow cytometric analysis. Thirty-one ECP procedures performed on 13 patients with chronic GvHD were studied by monitoring the induction of mononuclear cell (MNC) apoptosis using annexin V/propidium iodide double staining; residual lymphocyte proliferation to standard mitogens was also measured in 17 of the procedures. The kinetics of apoptosis was analyzed at different times in MNCs untreated or treated with 8-methoxy-psoralen plus ultraviolet A; the variation (ΔAPOPTOSIS) after 24 h revealed the efficacy of the treatment. In 88.6% of the 31 ECP procedures, ΔAPOPTOSIS was >15% (the "alerting" threshold for ΔAPOPTOSIS was set at 15% on the basis of our data); in the remainder (19.4%), the increment in apoptosis was lower. In four procedures, the proliferation assay was useful for assessing the effect of ECP on the apheretic bag. In conclusion, both flow cytometric assays enabled a biologically significant result to be obtained. In our opinion, the apoptosis test - being faster and easier than the proliferation test - could be a reliable way to validate ECP procedures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)162-170
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Clinical Apheresis
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1 2015



  • Annexin V/PI
  • CFSE
  • ECP
  • Flow cytometry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hematology

Cite this