Extracorporeal photochemotherapy after cardiac transplantation: A new therapeutic approach to allograft rejection

Roberto Dall'Amico, G. Montini, L. Murer, B. Andreetta, G. Zacchello, A. Gambino, G. Feltrin, A. Caforio, V. Tursi, U. Livi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Photopheresis (ECP) is a new immunomodulatory therapy in which recipient lymphocytes are treated extracorporeally with 8-methoxypsoralen and ultraviolet light. The treatment seems to induce an inhibition of both humoral and cellular rejection after transplantation. Objective: Since recurrent rejection (RR) continues to be a severe complication after heart transplantation (HTx) and the immunosuppressive regimes used for the treatment are often associated with increased morbidity and mortality, we investigated whether ECP could have a beneficial effect on the number and severity of rejection episodes. Methods: Eleven HTx recipients (5 M and 6 F, mean age 48.5 yrs) with RR were enrolled in the study. ECP was performed at weekly intervals during the 1st month, at 2 week intervals during the 2nd and 3rd month, and then monthly for another 3 months. Results. The fraction of biopsies (EMB) with a grade 0/1A rejection increased during ECP from 46% to 72% while the EMB showing a 3A/3B rejection decreased from 42% to 18%. It is also noteworthy that out of the 78 EMB performed during ECP only one showed a 3B rejection in comparison with 13 out of 110 EMB in the pre-ECP period. Six rejection relapses were observed in a total follow-up of 60 months, two of them occurring during the tapering of oral steroid. Four relapses were reversed by ECP, one by IV steroids and the last by methotrexate after the failure of both IV steroids and ECP. The mean doses of immunosuppressive drugs resulted lower after 6 months of ECP: steroids were reduced from 13 to 8.25 mg/day, cyclosporine from 375 to 285 mg/day, azathioprine from 55 to 35 mg/day. Conclusions. ECP is a well tolerated treatment. Its administration allows better RR control and significant reduction in immunosuppressive therapy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-54
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Journal of Artificial Organs
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2000


  • 8-MOP
  • Photopheresis
  • Rejection
  • Transplantation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics

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