Penn Dermatology

Cutaneous T-Cell Lymphoma Treatment at Penn

Penn Dermatology provides comprehensive care for patients with cutaneous lymphomas. Cutaneous lymphoma is cancer of the lymphocytes or white blood cells that primarily affect the skin. Lymphocytes help fight infection and are categorized as B-lymphocytes (B-cell) which produce antibodies and T-lymphocytes (T-cell) which regulate the immune system and fight viral infections.

The two major types of lymphoma are Hodgkin disease and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Expert Care for Cutaneous T-Cell Lymphoma at Penn

Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL) is a rare and typically slow growing type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. It may initially look like common skin disorders such as eczema, psoriasis or chronic dermatitis. There are many forms of cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, but mycosis fungoides, characterized by patches, plaques and tumors, is the most common type, while Sezary syndrome is less common.

The Cutaneous T-Cell Lymphoma Clinic at Penn Dermatology specializes in diagnosing and treating patients with various forms of cutaneous T-cell lymphoma. The clinic manages and cares for patients across the Philadelphia region and from neighboring states. In the United States, approximately 3,000 new cases of cutaneous T-cell lymphoma are diagnosed annually.

The Penn Dermatology Cutaneous T-Cell Lymphoma Clinic has the largest referral program in the nation. Penn dermatologists routinely evaluate more than 400 new patients per year and manage more than 2,000 outpatients diagnosed with cutaneous T-cell lymphoma annually. In addition, Penn's dermatologists and oncologists work collaboratively to provide comprehensive care.

Advanced Treatment Approaches for Cutaneous T-Cell Lymphoma

Patients with cutaneous T-cell lymphoma may experience different stages of the disease, including itchy rashes or raised patches on the skin, tumors, ulceration, exfoliation or spreading to the lymph nodes or internal organs. Penn’s dermatologists offer state-of-the-art treatments for both early and late stage cutaneous T-cell lymphoma. Treatment options may include:

  • Electron beam therapy – a method treating lesions on the outer layers of the skin but does not expose the deeper layers of the skin or organs to radiation
  • PUVA – treatment using drugs that react to ultraviolet (UV) radiation or sunlight
  • Photopheresis – a process used to treat diseases such as cutaneous t-cell lymphoma, graft-versus-host disease, and transplant rejection which extracts and separates a patient’s white blood cells from the blood and exposes the cells to ultraviolet light and a photoactive drug. The modified white blood cells are returned to the  patient to  stimulate a positive therapeutic response.
  • Phototherapy – treatment using UVB light therapy
  • Systemic agents – drugs taken or administered internally including interferons
  • Topical agents – medications applied directly to the skin including agents that stimulate the immune response as well as different types of topical chemotherapy

Dermatology Research Studies and Clinical Trials in Philadelphia

The Penn Cutaneous Lymphoma Program has a long history of research funded by the National Institutes of Health to support the development of new drugs and new treatment protocols. Within the last 25 years, the members of this program have been national leaders as participants in numerous clinical trials testing the effectiveness of new medications and protocols. Penn’s multimodality therapeutic approach to Sezary syndrome has produced transformational results in regard to long term clinical responses.

Patients undergoing treatment at Penn Dermatology may be eligible to participate in several active clinical trials of new drugs on a volunteer basis.