Extracorporeal photopheresis (ECP) was given to 23 patients with steroid-refractory acute GVHD (aGVHD, grade II (n=10), III (n=7) or IV (n=6)). The median duration of ECP was 7 months (1-33) and the median number of ECP cycles in each patient was 10. Twelve patients (52%) had complete responses. Eleven patients (48%) survived and 12 died, 10 of GVHD with or without infections and two of leukaemia relapse. The average grade of GVHD was reduced from 2.8 (on the first day of ECP) to 1.4 (on day +90 from ECP) (P=0.08), and the average dose of i.v. methylprednisolone from 2.17 to 0.2mg/kg/d (P=0.004). Complete responses were obtained in 70, 42 and 0% of patients, respectively, with grades II, III and IV aGVHD; complete responses in the skin, liver and gut were 66, 27 and 40%. Patients treated within 35 days from onset of aGVHD had higher responses (83 vs 47%; P=0.1). A trend for improved survival was seen in grade III-IV aGVHD treated with ECP as compared to matched controls (38 vs 16%; P 0.08). ECP is a treatment option for patients with steroid refractory aGVHD and should be considered early in the course of the disease.
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