Photopheresis: A Cancer Treatment That Goes Beyond Skin Deep

Shedding light on new uses for Photopheresis, a cellular immunotherapy.

What if there were a way to turn your immune system “on” or “off” to help fight disease or even cancer? It sounds like something out of science fiction, but it’s real.

Photopheresis is a blood-filtering therapy that works with your immune system to help the body heal itself. Richard Edelson, MD, Yale Medicine's chair of Dermatology, developed this form of immunotherapy in the 1980s to treat cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL)—a cancer that starts in the skin and potentially spreads to the blood, lymph nodes and other internal organs. Over time, the therapy has been shown to effectively treat other autoimmune issues, including graft-versus-host-disease (GVHD) and organ transplantation rejection.

The video above charts the evolution of this ground-breaking treatment, including stories of people whose lives have been transformed by it.  

“Photopheresis far exceeds anything we could have imagined,” says Dr. Edelson.