Introduction: Extracorporeal photopheresis (ECP) is considered an effective treatment for patients with chronic graft vs host disease (cGVHD) and demonstrates efficacy in ameliorating GVHD. The mechanism by which ECP acts against cGVHD is not fully understood. Preliminary observations have hinted at the potential involvement of neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs) formation in the pathogenesis of cGVHD. We aimed to assess the influence of ECP on the formation of NETs in patients with cGVHD as a potential mechanism in this setting. Methods: Patients treated with ECP for cGVHD at the Rabin Medical Center were included in this study. Blood samples were obtained at three different time points: before starting an ECP cycle, at the end of the first day of treatment, and 24 h following the initiation of the ECP treatment cycle. Neutrophils were harvested from all blood samples. NET formation was assessed by measurement of NET-bound specific neutrophil elastase activity and by immunofluorescence staining. Results: Six patients (two females and four males) with cGVHD were included in the study. We observed a significant increase in NET formation among all six patients following ECP. Net-bound specific neutrophil elastase activity was elevated from a median value of 2.23 mU/mL (interquartile range [IQR] 2.06-2.47 mU/mL) at baseline to a median value of 13.06 mU/mL (IQR 10.27-15.97 mU/mL) immediately after the treatment and to a peak median value of 14.73 mU/mL (IQR 9.6-22.38 mU/mL) 24 h following the initiation of the ECP cycle. A qualitative assessment of NET formation using immunofluorescence staining has demonstrated markedly increased expression of citrullinated histone H3, a marker of NET formation, following ECP treatment. Conclusions: Our preliminary data indicate that ECP induces NET formation among patients with cGVHD. The contribution of increased NET formation to the therapeutic effect of cGVHD should be further investigated.
- extracorporeal photopheresis (ECP)
- graft vs host disease (GVHD)
- neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs)