Extracorporeal Photopheresis

Children’s National leads the field in making bone marrow1 transplants2 safer and more effective. We offer novel treatments, such as extracorporeal photopheresis, which help your child fight common complications, such as graft vs. host disease3.

Expertise in Using Extracorporeal Photopheresis to Fight Graft vs. Host Disease

At Children’s National, we know it’s not enough to offer a renowned bone marrow transplant program. We also use novel treatments to treat common but dangerous complications. Extracorporeal photopheresis is a painless procedure for preventing your child’s blood cells from attacking his or her immune system.

We are proud to be one of few programs in the country offering extracorporeal photopheresis. Highlights of our capabilities include:

  • Expertise: Children’s National is home to an international leader in pediatric bone marrow transplantation and graft vs. host disease, David Jacobsohn, MD, ScM.
  • Research: Our team of experts leads groundbreaking research in many aspects of extracorporeal photopheresis. This includes evaluating new technologies to help your child achieve the best possible outcome. Learn more about research and clinical trials.
  • Early intervention: As graft vs. host disease experts, we specialize in identifying the first signs of this condition. This helps us protect your child from severe complications.
  • Safety: Extracorporeal photopheresis requires a large sample of your child’s blood, which can be risky in small children. As an experienced transplant program, we take every precaution to ensure all children have a safe procedure.
  • Advanced technology: We use only the best available technology. This gives your child access to faster and more effective treatment with fewer side effects.

Even with the best care, children receiving bone marrow transplants are at risk for complications. Graft vs. host disease happens when differences between transplanted cells (graft) and your child’s cells (host) cause his or her immune system to attack itself.

Extracorporeal photopheresis is a painless procedure to prevent or treat graft vs. host disease. Developed in part by experts at Children’s National, this treatment alters your child’s white blood cell4 functioning: from fighting their immune system to fighting graft vs. host disease.

Extracorporeal Photopheresis: What to Expect

We pride ourselves in delivering family-centered care. If extracorporeal photopheresis is right for your child, we tell you everything you need to know and answer any questions you may have.

Here’s what to expect:

  1. We draw a large sample of your child’s blood through an intravenous (IV) line.
  2. Using a special machine, we separate white blood cells from other blood cells.
  3. The machine mixes your child’s white blood cells with a medication that becomes active when exposed to ultraviolet light.
  4. A light inside the machine then activates the medication. This treats your child’s white blood cells.
  5. We combine the treated white blood cells with the rest of your child’s blood cells and return them to his or her body through an IV line.
  6. The treated blood cells stimulate your child’s immune system to fight graft vs. host disease.

After this procedure, we discuss any precautions your child needs to take, such as avoiding sunlight for 24 hours. Your child may need more than one treatment to completely fight off graft vs. host disease.

Contact Us

Meet the team or for more information, call our coordinator at 202-476-1297.

Glossary of Terms

1 Bone Marrow: Spongy center of bones that is the “factory” for all blood cell in circulation
2 Transplant: A medical treatment to replace a recipient’s diseased organ or tissues with a healthy organ or tissue from a donor
3 Graft-versus-Host-Disease: A condition where the donor’s transplanted marrow or stem cells react against the patient’s tissues. It is referred to as GvHD and most often affects the skin, gastrointestinal tract, and/or liver
4 White Blood Cell: Also called a “leukocyte,” a type of blood cell produced by the bone marrow to help fight infection

View full glossary