Photopheresis therapy work wins award for improving cancer treatment with light-activated drugs

Lake Zurich, IL-- The American Society for Apheresis (ASFA) is presenting the prestigious Junior Investigator Award to Katherine Radwanski, a biomedical engineer with Fenwal Inc., to recognize her research on photopheresis. Photopheresis is a medical therapy where blood is collected from patients and treated with photosensitive drugs. The drugs are then activated outside the body by exposing the blood to ultraviolet light before returning the blood to the patients.

Radwanski's research demonstrates early feasibility for photopheresis methods used in Europe, but not yet approved for use in the United States. Her work is being used to develop photopheresis as a therapeutic protocol for Fenwal's Amicus system, a machine used to collect platelets, mononuclear cells, and other blood components. Fenwal is working to expand the clinical uses for its automated-collection technologies, including new therapeutic plasma exchange methods.

Photopheresis is primarily used to reduce skin symptoms associated with cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL), with research underway for other cell-related diseases. Apoptosis refers to programmed cell death, which is thought to be the first step in the mechanism of action of photopheresis treatment.

While photopheresis is performed in Europe and the United States, variation exists between the two methods in the amounts and concentrations of white cells (or leukocytes), chemotherapy drugs and ultraviolet radiation used. Radwanski's abstract found that photopheresis was effective at causing programmed cell death over a 72-hour period under differing concentrations of cells, drugs and radiation, suggesting clinicians may have more flexibility than previously thought in providing this therapy to cancer patients.

Radwanski presented her award-winning abstract, "The Effects of Cell Concentration, UV Dose and 8-Methoxypsoralen Concentration on Human Lymphocyte Apoptosis Post Photopheresis," on Thursday, May 27, 2010, in a plenary abstract session during the 2010 ASFA Annual Meeting in New Orleans.

The ASFA Junior Investigator Award is given to the primary author of an outstanding abstract submitted by an ASFA member who has worked in the transfusion field for less than 10 years. "Receiving the ASFA Junior Investigator Award is a great honor and testament to Katherine Radwanski's talents as a biomedical researcher," said William H. Cork, Fenwal chief technology officer and senior vice president. "Her work is of great benefit to the transfusion-medicine community, and may lead to more options for U.S. clinicians as well as cancer patients."

Radwanski is the first recipient of ASFA's junior investigator award who works for a commercial organization. Past recipients include Gregory Pomper, M.D., from Yale University; and Jeffrey Winters, M.D., from Mayo Clinic.

Radwanski earned her master's degree in biotechnology from Northwestern University, where she also earned a bachelor's degree in biomedical engineering. She leads research at Fenwal on next-generation blood collection technologies and storage solutions. Her previous publications include studies on the assessment of red blood cells and platelets stored with additive solutions.

For more information about ASFA, please visit www.apheresis.org.

Fenwal, Inc. is a global medical technology company focused on improving blood collection, filtration, separation, storage and transfusion to ensure the availability, safety and effectiveness of blood components For more information, please visit www.fenwalinc.com.  

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