September 19th is national Apheresis Awareness Day. In celebration, and to raise awareness of apheresis medicine, we recognize the apheresis team at Smilow Cancer Hospital. The Apheresis Service is an essential group within Smilow and Yale New Haven Hospital as they see individuals across the spectrum of healthcare. The team cares patients on the 8th floor of Smilow Cancer Hospital.
Apheresis instruments are used to separate, remove, and replace components of whole blood. The main role of the team at Smilow is harvesting progenitor and mononuclear cells that are then used in cellular therapies, including stem cell transplants or CAR T-Cell therapies. The team also plays an important part in Classical Hematology, performing automated red blood cell exchange procedures (both acutely and chronically) for individuals with hemoglobinopathies such as sickle cell disease. The apheresis unit is an outpatient clinic, but the nurses on the team also perform inpatient emergency procedures and can be seen traveling with the equipment throughout the hospital to provide care to patients.
As part of the team, there are four highly specialized nurses that perform photopheresis, a cellular immunotherapy that removes blood via a machine and isolates white blood cells. These white cells are then exposed to a medication called 8-methoxypsoralen followed by UVA irradiation before being returned to the patient. This procedure is used to treat cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, graft-versus-host disease, heart and lung transplant rejection, and other autoimmune conditions such as scleroderma. Yale is the only hospital in Connecticut, and one of a few in New England, that offers photopheresis treatment and is internationally known as the institution where it was developed.
Thank you to the apheresis team for the important work they do for our patients every day!