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MP 8.01.17 Hematopoietic Stem-Cell Transplantation for Plasma Cell Dyscrasias, Including Multiple Myeloma and POEMS Syndrome

Medical Policy    
Original Policy Date
Last Review Status/Date
Reviewed with literature search/8:2014
  Return to Medical Policy Index


Our medical policies are designed for informational purposes only and are not an authorization, or an explanation of benefits, or a contract.  Receipt of benefits is subject to satisfaction of all terms and conditions of the coverage.  Medical technology is constantly changing, and we reserve the right to review and update our policies periodically.


HSCT refers to a procedure in which hematopoietic stem cells are infused to restore bone marrow function in cancer patients who receive bone-marrow-toxic doses of cytotoxic drugs with or without whole body radiation therapy. Hematopoietic stem cells may be obtained from the transplant recipient (autologous HSCT) or from a donor (allogeneic HSCT). They can be harvested from bone marrow, peripheral blood, or umbilical cord blood shortly after delivery of neonates. Although cord blood is an allogeneic source, the stem cells in it are antigenically “naïve” and thus are associated with a lower incidence of rejection or graft-versus-host disease (GVHD). Cord blood is discussed in greater detail in Policy No. 7.01.50.

Immunologic compatibility between infused hematopoietic stem cells and the recipient is not an issue in autologous HSCT. However, immunologic compatibility between donor and patient is a critical factor for achieving a good outcome of allogeneic HSCT. Compatibility is established by typing of HLA using cellular, serologic, or molecular techniques. HLA refers to the tissue type expressed at the Class I and Class II loci on each arm of chromosome 6. Depending on the disease being treated, an acceptable
donor will match the patient at all or most of the HLA loci (with the exception of umbilical cord blood).

Conventional Preparative Conditioning for HSCT
The conventional (“classical”) practice of allogeneic HSCT involves administration of cytotoxic agents (eg, cyclophosphamide, busulfan) with or without total body irradiation at doses sufficient to destroy endogenous hematopoietic capability in the recipient. The beneficial treatment effect in this procedure is due to a combination of initial eradication of malignant cells and subsequent graft-versus-malignancy (GVM) effect mediated by non-self-immunologic effector cells that develop after engraftment of allogeneic stem cells within the patient’s bone marrow space. While the slower GVM effect is considered to be the potentially curative component, it may be overwhelmed by extant disease without the use of pretransplant conditioning. However, intense conditioning regimens are limited to patients who are sufficiently fit medically to tolerate substantial adverse effects that include pre-engraftment opportunistic infections secondary to loss of endogenous bone marrow function and organ damage and failure caused by the cytotoxic drugs. Furthermore, in any allogeneic HSCT, immunosuppressant drugs are required to minimize graft rejection and GVHD, which also increases susceptibility of the patient to opportunistic infections.

The success of autologous HSCT is predicated on the ability of cytotoxic chemotherapy with or without radiation to eradicate cancerous cells from the blood and bone marrow. This permits subsequent engraftment and repopulation of bone marrow space with presumably normal hematopoietic stem cells obtained from the patient before undergoing bone marrow ablation. As a consequence, autologous HSCT is typically performed as consolidation therapy when the patient’s disease is in complete remission. Patients who undergo autologous HSCT are susceptible to chemotherapy-related toxicities and opportunistic infections before engraftment, but not GVHD.

RIC for Allogeneic HSCT
RIC refers to the pretransplant use of lower doses or less-intense regimens of cytotoxic drugs or radiation than are used in traditional full-dose myeloablative conditioning treatments. The goal of RIC is to reduce disease burden but also to minimize as much as possible associated treatment-related morbidity and nonrelapse mortality (NRM) in the period during which the beneficial GVM effect of allogeneic transplantation develops. Although the definition of RIC remains arbitrary, with numerous versions employed, all seek to balance the competing effects of NRM and relapse due to residual disease. RIC regimens can be viewed as a continuum in effects, from nearly totally myeloablative to minimally myeloablative with lymphoablation, with intensity tailored to specific diseases and patient condition. Patients who undergo RIC with allogeneic HSCT initially demonstrate donor cell engraftment and bone marrow mixed chimerism. Most will subsequently convert to full-donor chimerism, which may be supplemented with donor lymphocyte infusions to eradicate residual malignant cells.
For the purposes of this Policy, the term “reduced-intensity conditioning” will refer to all conditioning regimens intended to be nonmyeloablative, as opposed to fully myeloablative (traditional) regimens.

Multiple Myeloma
Multiple myeloma (MM) is a systemic malignancy of plasma cells that represents approximately 10% of all hematologic cancers. It is treatable but rarely curable. At the time of diagnosis, most patients have generalized disease, and the selection of treatment is influenced by patient age, general health, prior therapy, and the presence of complications of the disease.(2,3)

The disease is staged by estimating tumor mass, based on various clinical parameters such as hemoglobin, serum calcium, number of lytic bone lesions, and the presence or absence of renal failure.

MM usually evolves from an asymptomatic premalignant stage (termed monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance). Treatment is usually reserved for patients with symptomatic disease (usually progressive myeloma), whereas asymptomatic patients are observed, as there is little evidence that early treatment of asymptomatic MM prolongs survival when compared with therapy delivered at the time of symptoms or end-organ damage.2,3 In some patients, an intermediate asymptomatic but more advanced premalignant stage is recognized and referred to as smoldering MM. The overall risk of disease progression from smoldering to symptomatic MM is 10% per year for the first 5 years, approximately 3% per year for the next 5 years, and 1% for the next 10 years.(2,3)

POEMS Syndrome
POEMS syndrome (also known as osteosclerotic myeloma, Crow-Fukase syndrome, or Takasuki syndrome) is a rare, paraneoplastic disorder secondary to a plasma-cell dyscrasia.4,5 This complex, multiorgan disease was first described in 1938, but the acronym POEMS was coined in 1980, reflecting hallmark characteristics of the syndrome: polyneuropathy, organomegaly, endocrinopathy, M protein, and skin changes.6 No single test establishes the presence of POEMS syndrome. Its pathogenesis is undefined, although some evidence suggests it is mediated by imbalance of proinflammatory cytokines including interleukin (IL)-1β, IL-6, and tumor necrosis factor-α; vascular endothelial growth factor may also be involved.(5,7) However, specific criteria have been established, and the syndrome may entail other findings in the constellation of signs and symptoms, as shown in the table. Both major criteria and at least 1 of the minor criteria are necessary for diagnosis.(7) 

Major Criteria

Minor Criteria

Known Associations

Possible Associations



plasmaproliferative disorder

Sclerotic bone lesions

Castleman disease


(splenomegaly, hepatomegaly, or lymphadenopathy)


(edema, pleural effusion, or ascites)


(adrenal, thyroid, pituitary, gonadal, parathyroid, pancreatic)

Skin changes

(hyperpigmentation, hypertrichosis, plethora, hemangiomata, white nails)



Weight loss




Pulmonary hypertension

Restrictive lung disease

Thrombotic diatheses


Cardiomyopathy (systolic dysfunction)


Low vitamin B12 values


The prevalence of POEMS syndrome is unclear. A national survey in Japan showed a prevalence of about 0.3 per 100,000.(8) Other large series have been described in the United States (5,7,9) and in India.(10) In general, patients with POEMS have a superior overall survival compared with that of MM, nearly 14 years in a large series from the Mayo Clinic. (7) However, given the rarity of POEMS, no randomized controlled trials of therapies have been reported. (11) Numerous approaches have included ionizing radiation, plasmapheresis, intravenous immunoglobulin, interferon alfa, corticosteroids, alkylating agents, azathioprine, tamoxifen, transretinoic acid, and high-dose chemotherapy with autologous HSCT support. (5,7) Optimal treatment involves eliminating the plasma cell clone, for example, by surgical excision or local radiation therapy for an isolated plasmacytoma, or systemic chemotherapy in patients with disseminated disease, such as medullary disease or multiple plasmacytomas. Given the underlying plasma cell dyscrasia of POEMS, newer approaches to MM, including bortezomib, lenalidomide, and thalidomide, are also under investigation. (5,12)


Multiple Myeloma

A single or second (salvage) autologous hematopoietic stem-cell transplantation may be considered medically necessary to treat multiple myeloma.

Tandem autologous-autologous hematopoietic stem-cell transplantation may be considered medically necessary to treat multiple myeloma in patients who fail to achieve at least a near-complete or very good partial response after the first transplant in the tandem sequence. (For definitions of near-complete response and very good partial response, see Policy Guidelines.)

Tandem transplantation with an initial round of autologous hematopoietic stem-cell transplantation (SCT) followed by a non-marrow-ablative conditioning regimen and allogeneic hematopoietic stem-cell transplantation (ie, reduced-intensity conditioning transplant) may be considered medically necessary to treat newly diagnosed multiple myeloma patients.

Allogeneic hematopoietic stem-cell transplantation, myeloablative or nonmyeloablative, as upfront therapy of newly diagnosed multiple myeloma or as salvage therapy, is considered investigational.

POEMS Syndrome

Autologous hematopoietic stem-cell transplantation may be considered medically necessary to treat disseminated POEMS syndrome (see Policy Guidelines).

Allogeneic and tandem hematopoietic stem-cell transplantation are considered investigational to treat POEMS syndrome.

Policy Guidelines

The International Working Group on Myeloma has updated the European Group for Blood and Marrow Transplant (EBMT) criteria to describe a complete response to MM therapy.1 The criteria include negative immunofixation on the serum and urine; disappearance of soft tissue plasmacytomas; and, 5% or fewer plasma cells in bone marrow aspiration.

Patients with disseminated POEMS syndrome may have diffuse sclerotic lesions or disseminated bone marrow involvement.

In 2003, CPT grouped codes describing allogeneic and autologous hematopoietic SCT services to the hematology section (CPT 38204–38242). Not all codes are applicable for each high-dose chemotherapy with HSCT procedure. For example, Plans should determine if cryopreservation is performed. A range of codes describes services associated with cryopreservation, storage, and thawing of cells (38208–38215).

CPT 38208 and 38209 describe thawing and washing of cryopreserved cells

CPT 38210–38214 describe certain cell types being depleted

CPT 38215 describes plasma cell concentration

Benefit Application
BlueCard/National Account Issues

No applicable information 


The earliest versions of this policy were based on two 1996 and two 1998 TEC Assessments. Since 1999, the treatment of multiple myeloma (MM) has changed radically.

The literature search for this policy was updated through June 15, 2014. No new evidence was identified that would support a change in any of the policy statements on MM. New information on POEMS syndrome was added to the Policy in 2013.

Multiple Myeloma Treatment Overview

In the prechemotherapy era, the median survival for a patient diagnosed with multiple myeloma (MM) was approximately 7 months. After the introduction of chemotherapy (e.g., the alkylating agent melphalan in the 1960s), prognosis improved with a median survival of 24–30 months and a 10-year survival of 3%. In a large group of patients with newly diagnosed multiple myeloma, there was no difference in overall survival (OS) reported during a 24-year period from 1971–1994, with a trend toward improvement during 1995–2000 and a statistically significant benefit in OS during 2001–2006.(2) These data suggested that autologous SCT was responsible for the trends during 1994–2000, while novel agents have contributed to the improvement since 2001.(3)

The introduction of novel agents and better prognostic indicators has been the major advances in the treatment of this disease. (13,14) Novel agents such as the proteasome inhibitor bortezomib and the immunomodulatory derivatives thalidomide and lenalidomide first showed efficacy in relapsed/refractory myeloma and now have been integrated into first-line regimens. (13,14) With the introduction of these novel treatments, it is now expected that most patients with MM will have responsive disease with initial therapy, and only a small minority will have refractory disease. (15)

Risk-adapted therapy

The approach to the treatment of newly diagnosed MM (symptomatic) is dictated by eligibility for autologous hematopoietic stem-cell transplantation (HSCT) and risk-stratification. (16) Risk stratification, using fluorescent in situ hybridization and conventional karyotyping divides patients into standard- or high-risk categories.

High-risk patients, which comprise approximately 25% of patients with MM, are defined by any of the following cytogenetic findings: 17p deletion, t(4;14), t(14;16), t(14;20), deletion 13 or hypodiploidy. (16) Standard-risk patients are those with hyperdiploidy, t(11;14) or t(6;14).

Standard-risk patients are typically treated with non-alkylator-based therapy such as lenalidomide plus low-dose dexamethasone followed by autologous HSCT; however, if the patient is tolerating the induction regimen well, an alternative strategy is to continue the initial therapy after hematopoietic stem-cell collection, reserving the transplant for first relapse. High-risk patients are generally treated with a bortezomib-based induction followed by autologous HSCT and then bortezomib-based maintenance. (16)

Recent reviews highlight the treatment of newly diagnosed myeloma, (17) relapsed, and refractory myeloma. (18) A review of the literature highlights advances in the use of autologous and allogeneic HSCT. (19)

Single autologous HSCT versus standard chemotherapy

As a result of several prospective, randomized trials that were conducted comparing conventional chemotherapy with high-dose therapy and autologous HSCT for patients with multiple myeloma, autologous HSCT has become the treatment of choice in patients younger than 65 years of age.

Data from 7 randomized studies are available. (20-26) In all but 1 study, (22) the complete response (CR) rate was superior in the high-dose chemotherapy/autologous HSCT arm: this study published final results of the S9321 trial, which was initiated in 1993 and randomized 516 patients with MM to receive either standard therapy or myeloablative conditioning with melphalan 140 mg/m2 plus total-body irradiation followed by autologous HSCT. (22) The authors reported virtually no difference in outcomes, including response rates, progression-free survival (PFS), and OS.

In 5 of the 7 studies, the superior CR rate translated into a significant increase in PFS. However, in the 2 studies that did not show an improved PFS with autologous HSCT, randomization was not performed at diagnosis but only after induction treatment, possibly introducing selection bias. (20) Three of the 7 studies showed superior OS in the autologous HSCT group. (21, 24, 26)

The Intergroupe Francophone du Myélome (IFM) showed the superiority of high-dose chemotherapy and autologous HSCT compared to conventional chemotherapy in a randomized trial of 200 patients younger than 65 years of age. (21) The group that underwent autologous HSCT had significantly improved response rates, event-free (EFS), and overall survival. Seven years later, the British Medical Research Council published similar results. (24)

The reasons for the discrepant results among these randomized studies are uncertain but may be related to the conditioning regimens or patient age.

A meta-analysis of 2,411 patients enrolled in randomized controlled trials (RCTs) compared standard-dose chemotherapy versus myeloablative chemotherapy with single autologous HSCT. (27) The authors of the meta-analysis concluded that myeloablative therapy with autologous HSCT increased the likelihood of PFS (hazard of progression: 0.75; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.59–0.96) but not OS (hazard of death: 0.92; 95% CI: 0.74–1.13); the odds ratio for treatment-related mortality (TRM) was 3.01 (95% CI: 1.64–5.50) in the group with autologous HSCT. However, the effects of myeloablative chemotherapy and autologous HSCT may have been diluted by the fact that up to 55% of patients in the standard chemotherapy group received myeloablative chemotherapy with autologous HSCT as salvage therapy when the multiple myeloma progressed. This could account for the lack of a significant difference in OS between the two groups in the study.

These randomized trials of autologous HSCT following induction therapy were designed and implemented prior to the availability of thalidomide, lenalidomide, and bortezomib. The introduction of these agents has dramatically changed the treatment paradigm of MM. Ongoing trials incorporating these newer agents into induction regimens are ongoing. Preliminary results have shown CRs in a substantial proportion of these patients, opening the question as to what role autologous HSCT will continue to play. However, it will require further follow-up to determine if these newer induction regimens will translate into improved survival. (28)

Salvage HSCT

Despite the success in improved survival with autologous HSCT versus conventional chemotherapy, nearly all patients will relapse and require salvage therapy. Therapeutic options for patients with relapsed MM after a prior autologous HSCT include novel biologic agents (e.g., thalidomide, lenalidomide, and bortezomib, as single agents, in combination with dexamethasone, and in combination with cytotoxic agents or with each other), traditional chemotherapy, or a second HSCT. (29)

Repeat Autologous HSCT for Relapse After Initial Autologous HSCT

An evidence-based systematic review (30) sponsored by the American Society for Blood and Marrow Transplantation (ASBMT) summarized data from 4 relevant clinical series. Investigators reported that some myeloma patients who relapsed after a first autotransplant achieved durable complete or partial remissions after a second autotransplant as salvage therapy. Factors that apparently increased the likelihood of durable remissions and extended survival included a chemosensitive relapse, younger age, a long disease-free or progression-free interval since the initial autotransplant, and fewer chemotherapy regimens prior to the initial autotransplant. Thus, clinical judgment plays an important role in selecting patients for this treatment with a reasonable likelihood that potential benefits may exceed harms.

Olin and colleagues reported their experience with 41 patients with MM who received a second salvage autologous HSCT for relapsed disease. (29) Median time between transplants was 37 months (range 3–91 months). Overall response rate in assessable patients was 55%. Treatment-related mortality was 7%. Median follow-up time was 15 months, with median PFS of 8.5 months and median OS 20.7 months. In a multivariate analysis of OS, the number of prior lines of therapy (≥5) and time to progression after initial transplant were the strongest predictors of OS.

Allogeneic HSCT for Relapse After Initial Autologous HSCT

Qazilbash and colleagues reported their experience with salvage autologous or allogeneic transplantation after a failed first autologous transplant. (31) Fourteen patients (median age: 52 years) received a second autologous transplant and 26 patients (median age: 51 years) underwent a reduced-intensity allogeneic transplant. Median interval between first and second transplant was 25 and 17 months for the autologous and allogeneic groups, respectively. After a median follow-up of 18 months (range: 2–69 months) for the autologous group, median PFS was 6.8 months and OS 29 months, respectively. After a median follow-up of 30 months (range: 13–66 months) for the allogeneic group, median PFS was 7.3 months and OS 13 months. On univariate analysis, in the allogeneic group, an interval of greater than 1 year between the first and salvage transplants predicted a significantly better OS (p=0.02). None of the prognostic factors that were evaluated for the allogeneic group was found to have a significant impact on survival in the autologous group (which included age, cytogenetics, type of donor, and chronic graft-versus-host disease [GVHD], among others).

EBMT reported an analysis of 413 MM patients who received a related or unrelated RIC allogeneic HSCT for the treatment of relapse or disease progression after a prior autologous HSCT.(32) Median age at RIC allogeneic HSCT was 54 years, and 45% of patients had undergone 2 or more prior autologous transplants. The median OS and PFS from the time of allogeneic transplantation for the entire population were about 25 and 10 months, respectively. Cumulative nonrelapse mortality (NRM) at 1 year was about 22%. In a multivariate analysis, cytomegalovirus (CMV) seronegativity of both patient and donor was associated with significantly better PFS, OS, and NRM. Patient-donor gender mismatch was associated with better PFS, fewer than 2 prior autologous transplants was associated with better OS, and shorter time from the first autologous HSCT to the RIC allogeneic HSCT was associated with lower NRM. These results suggest patient and donor CMV seronegativity represent key prognostic factors for outcome after RIC allogeneic HSCT for MM that relapses or progresses following 1 or more autologous transplants.

Tandem HSCT

A tandem transplant involves an autologous transplant followed by a preplanned second transplant, either another autologous or a reduced-intensity conditioning (RIC) allogeneic transplant. A tandem transplant differs from a second salvage transplant in that a tandem transplant involves prospective planning for a second transplant at the time the first transplant is being planned.

Tandem Autologous-autologous HSCT

The first randomized trial of autologous tandem transplants (IFM-94) was published in December 2003 by Attal et al. and randomized patients with newly diagnosed myeloma to single or tandem autologous transplants. (33) Outcomes were analyzed by intention-to-treat at 75 months’ median follow-up. Among those randomized to single transplants (n=199), 148 relapsed: 33 were salvaged with a second autotransplant, 13 received no salvage, and the remainder received conventional chemotherapy plus thalidomide. Among those randomized to tandem autotransplants (n=200), 129 patients experienced disease relapse: 34 received salvage therapy with another (third) transplant, 12 received no salvage, and the remainder received conventional chemotherapy plus thalidomide. Seven years after diagnosis, patients randomized to tandem transplants had higher probabilities than those randomized to single transplants for event-free (EFS; 20% vs. 10%, respectively; p=0.03), relapse-free (RFS; 23% vs. 13%, respectively; p<0.01), and overall (OS; 42% vs. 21%, respectively; p=0.010) survival. Treatment-related mortality was 6% and 4% after tandem and single transplants, respectively (p=0.40). Second transplants apparently extended survival only for those who failed to achieve a CR or very good partial response (VGPR) after one transplant (OS at 7 years: 43% vs. 11%, respectively; p<0.001).

An accompanying editorial by Stadtmauer (34) raised concerns that these results might be specific to the regimens used for myeloablative therapy in IFM-94. Patients in the single transplant arm received 140 mg/m2 melphalan plus total-body irradiation (TBI), while those in the tandem arm received the same dose without TBI for the initial transplant and with TBI for the second transplant. The editorial cites an IFM-95 study as evidence, suggesting 140 mg/m2 melphalan plus TBI may be less effective and more toxic than myeloablative therapy than 200 mg/m2 melphalan and no TBI. Based on this, the author hypothesizes increased survival in the IFM-94 tandem arm may have resulted from greater cumulative exposure to melphalan (280 vs. 140 mg/m2).

The Bologna 96 clinical study, (35) compared single with double autologous HSCT (n=321). Patients undergoing tandem autologous HSCT were more likely than those with a single autologous HSCT to attain at least a near CR (47% vs. 33%, respectively; p=0.008), to prolong RFS (median, 42 vs. 24 months, respectively; p<0.001), and extend EFS (median, 35 vs. 23 months, respectively; p=0.001). There was no significant difference between the groups in TRM (3–4%). There was a trend for improved OS among patients in the double-transplantation group (7-year rate of 60%), as compared with the single-transplantation group (7-year rate of 47%; p=0.10). Conversely, among patients achieving CR or near CR after one transplantation, EFS and OS were not significantly different according to transplantation(s) received by study randomization. A subgroup analysis of outcomes of patients assigned to the two treatment arms was evaluated according to response and showed similar results to the Attal et al. study, (32) in that the benefit of a second transplant was seen only in patients who did not achieve at least a very good partial response (PR) with the first transplant.

Tandem Autologous/Reduced-intensity Conditioning (RIC) Allogeneic HSCT

Several RCTs have been published comparing RIC-allogeneic HSCT following a first autologous HSCT to autologous transplants, single or in tandem. These studies were based on “genetic randomization,” that is, patients with a human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-identical sibling were offered an RIC-allogeneic HSCT following the autologous HSCT, whereas the other patients underwent either one or two autologous transplants.

The first published study by Garban and colleagues included high-risk patients (including deletion of chromosome 13). Sixty-five patients were in the autologous/RIC-allogeneic group and 219 in the autologous/autologous group. (36) Based on the intention-to-treat analysis, there was better median EFS and OS in the autologous/autologous group (35 months versus 31.7; p=NS and 47.2 months versus 35; p=0.07, respectively). If results for only those patients who actually received the autologous/RIC-allogeneic (n=46) or tandem autologous transplants (n=166) were analyzed, the superior OS was again seen in the tandem autologous group (median 47.2 vs. 35 months; p=0.07). Updated results of this population were reported with a reference date of July 2008 by Moreau and colleagues.(37) Comparing the results of the 166 patients who completed the whole tandem autologous HSCT protocol to the 46 patients who underwent the entire autologous/RIC-allogeneic program, no difference was seen regarding EFS (median 25 vs. 21 months, respectively; p=0.88), with a trend toward superior OS in favor of double autologous HSCT (median OS 57 vs. 41 months, respectively; p=0.08), due to a longer survival after relapse in the tandem autologous transplant arm.

One study by Bruno and colleagues included 80 patients with an HLA-identical sibling and who were allowed to choose allografts or autografts for the second transplant (58 completed an autograft/allograft sequence) and 82 without an HLA-identical sibling who were assigned to tandem autografts (46 completed the double autograft sequence). (38) The results among those completing tandem transplantation showed a higher complete response (CR) rate at the completion of the second transplant for the autograft/allograft group (55%) than for the autograft/autograft group (26%; p=0.004). EFS and OS were superior for the patients who underwent autologous-allogeneic transplantation (35 months vs. 29; p=0.02 and 80 months vs. 54; p=0.01, respectively). Analyzing the group with HLA-identical siblings versus those without, in a pseudo intention-to-treat analysis, EFS and OS were significantly longer in the group with HLA-identical siblings. The treatment-related mortality rate at 2 years was 2% in the double autograft group and 10% in the autograft/allograft group; 32% of the latter group had extensive, chronic GVHD.

Rosinol and colleagues reported the results of a prospective study of 110 patients with MM who failed to achieve at least near-complete remission after a first autologous HSCT and were scheduled to receive a second autologous transplant (n=85) or an RIC-allogeneic transplant (n=25), depending on the availability of an HLA-identical sibling donor. (39) The autologous/RIC-allogeneic group had a higher CR rate (40% vs. 11%, respectively; p=0.001) and a trend toward a longer PFS (median 31 months vs. not reached, respectively; p=0.08). There was no statistical difference in EFS or OS between the two groups. The autologous/RIC-allogeneic group experienced a higher transplantation-related mortality rate (16% vs. 5%, respectively; p=0.07) and a 66% chance of chronic GVHD.

Although the results differ among the Garban/Moreau study (36, 37) and the other two studies, (38, 39) the authors of the Moreau et al. study suggest that this is due to different study designs. The Moreau et al. study focused on patients with high-risk disease and involved a conditioning regimen before the RIC-allogeneic transplant that may have eliminated some of the graft-versus-myeloma effect. Other contributing factors may have been non-uniform preparative regimens, different patient characteristics and criteria for advancing to a second transplant (i.e., only patients who failed to achieve a CR or near CR after the first autologous transplant underwent a second), and a small population in the allogeneic group in the Moreau et al. study. The authors suggest that the subgroup of high-risk patients with de novo MM may get equivalent or superior results with a tandem autologous/autologous transplant versus a tandem autologous/RIC-allogeneic transplant and that in patients with standard-risk and/or chemosensitive MM, RIC allograft may be an option.

Interim results of 2 prospective phase 3 trials that compared double autologous with single autologous followed by RIC-allogeneic transplant have been published.(40,41) The HOVON Group study at 36 months of follow-up found no significant difference between the groups that received autologous/RIC-allogeneic transplants or tandem autologous transplants in EFS (median 34 months and 28 months, respectively) or
OS (80% and 75%, respectively) at 36 months.(40)

An interim analysis of an EBMT study presented somewhat different inclusion criteria.(41) Previously untreated patients received vincristine, doxorubicin, dexamethasone (VAD) or VAD-like induction treatment, and had a response status of at least stable disease (ie, complete or partial remission or stable disease) at the time of autologous transplantation, which was also the time point for study inclusion. Patients with an HLA-identical sibling proceeded to RIC-allogeneic transplantation, while those without a matched sibling received no further treatment or a second autologous stem-cell transplant (if treated within a tandem program). A total of 356 patients were included, with a median follow-up of 3.5 years. Of these, 108 patients were allocated to the RIC-allogeneic transplant group and 248 to the autologous transplant group. Of the patients allocated to the allogeneic group, 98 received an RIC-allogeneic transplant. At interim publication, no significant difference in PFS or OS was noted between the double autologous and autologous/RIC-allogeneic transplant recipients.

At 96 months in the EBMT trial, PFS and OS were 22% and 49% versus 12% (p=0.027) and 36% (p=0.030) with autologous/RIC-allogeneic and autologous HSCT, respectively.42 The corresponding relapse/progression rate (RL) was 60% versus 82% (p<0.001). Nonrelapse mortality  at 36 months was 13% versus 3% (p<0.001). In patients with the del(13) abnormality, corresponding PFS and OS were 21% and 47% versus 5% (p=0.026), and 31% (p=0.154).42 Long-term outcome in patients with MM was better with autologous/RIC-allogeneic HSCT compared with autologous only, and the autologous/RIC-allogeneic approach seemed to overcome the poor prognostic impact of del(13) observed after autologous transplantation.

Krishnan et al conducted a Phase 3 trial comparing tandem autologous-autologous HSCT (auto-auto group) versus tandem autologous-RIC allogeneic HSCT (auto-allo group) in patients from 37 transplant centers in the U.S., who between 2003 and 2007, had received an autologous HSCT (n=710).(43) Of these patients, 625 had standard-risk disease, and 156 of 189 patients (83%) in the auto-allo group and 366 of 436 (84%) in the auto-auto group received a second transplant. Patients were eligible if they were younger than 70 years of age and had completed at least 3 cycles of systemic therapy for myeloma within the past 10 months. Patients were assigned to receive a second autologous or allogeneic HSCT based on the availability of an HLA-matched sibling donor. Patients in the auto-auto group subsequently underwent random assignment to observation (n=219) or maintenance therapy with thalidomide plus dexamethasone (n=217). Kaplan-Meier estimates of 3-year PFS were 43% (95% CI, 36 to 51) in the auto-allo group and 46% (42 to 51) in the auto-auto group (p=0.67). OS also did not differ at 3 years (77% [95%, CI, 72 to 84] vs 80% [CI, 77 to 84]; p=0.19). Grade 3-5 adverse events between the 2 groups were 46% and 42%, respectively. The data suggest nonmyeloablative allogeneic HSCT after autologous HSCT is not more effective than tandem autologous HSCT for patients with standard-risk myeloma.

Allogeneic HSCT

Although myeloablative allogeneic HSCT may be the only curative treatment in MM (due to its graft-versus-myeloma effect), its use has been limited to younger patients. Even with the limited indications, the toxic death rate related to infections and GVHD is high, and this strategy has been almost completely abandoned.(44)

In an approach to reduce NRM associated with allogeneic HSCT, nonmyeloablative conditioning (RIC) methods have been investigated. Most studies are phase II studies with no comparison with other treatment modalities.  One retrospective study compared myeloablative and nonmyeloablative conditioning.(45) This study, conducted by EBMT, found that transplant-related mortality was significantly reduced with RIC but because of a higher relapse or progression rate, there was no significant improvement in OS.

When RIC-allogeneic transplant alone is used in patients with a high tumor burden or with chemotherapy- resistant disease, the immunologic effect of the graft is not sufficient to preclude relapses.(46) Therefore, RIC-allogeneic transplantation is currently used after tumor mass reduction with high-dose chemotherapy and autologous HSCT.(44)

The role of allogeneic HSCT remains controversial, in particular because of conflicting data from cooperative group trials, but also because of improvement in outcomes that have been observed with proteasome inhibitors, new immune modulatory agents, and the use of posttransplant maintenance therapy. These issues have recently been reviewed and summarized.(47,48)

When RIC-allogeneic transplant alone is used in patients with a high tumor burden or with chemotherapy- resistant disease, the immunologic effect of the graft is not sufficient to preclude relapses.46 Therefore, RIC-allogeneic transplantation is currently used after tumor mass reduction with high-dose chemotherapy and autologous HSCT.(44)

The role of allogeneic HSCT remains controversial, in particular because of conflicting data from cooperative group trials, but also because of improvement in outcomes that have been observed with proteasome inhibitors, new immune modulatory agents, and the use of posttransplant maintenance therapy. These issues have recently been reviewed and summarized.(47,48)

Ongoing and Unpublished Clinical Trials

National Cancer Institute PDQ® Clinical Trial Database
A search of the National Cancer Institute’s database of clinical trials identified the following phase III trials addressing HSCT and a comparator in the treatment of myeloma:

  • Second autologous HSCT versus low-dose consolidation therapy after relapse (NCT00747877)
  • Risk-adapted therapy (NCT00546988)
  • Tandem transplantation (NCT00670631)
  • Single autologous HSCT and maintenance versus tandem autologous HSCT and maintenance therapy (NCT01109004)
  • Autologous versus allogeneic HSCT (Phase II/III; NCT00998270)
  • Single versus tandem autologous HSCT (NCT01208766)
  • Conventional-dose induction therapy followed by maintenance versus high-dose therapy with autologous HSCT in the initial treatment of myeloma (NCT01191060)
  • Comparison of the drug combination of lenalidomide, bortezomib and dexamethasone with or without HSCT in newly diagnosed myeloma (NCT01208662).

Clinical Input Received From Physician Specialty Societies and Academic Medical Centers

July 2013
In response to requests, input was received from 3 academic medical centers and 6 Blue Distinction Centers for Transplant while this policy was under review in 2013. While the various physician specialty societies and academic medical centers may collaborate with and make recommendations during this process, through the provision of appropriate reviewers, input received does not represent an endorsement or position statement by the physician specialty societies or academic medical centers, unless otherwise noted. There was near-consensus that autologous HSCT is medically necessary for POEMS syndrome, and near-consensus that allogeneic and tandem HSCT is investigational for POEMS syndrome.

December 2009
In response to requests, input was received from 2 academic medical centers while this policy was under review in 2009. While the various physician specialty societies and academic medical centers may collaborate with and make recommendations during this process, through the provision of appropriate reviewers, input received does not represent an endorsement or position statement by the physician specialty societies or academic medical centers, unless otherwise noted. One reviewer agreed with the current policy statement related to tandem autologous/RIC-allogeneic and the other disagreed. Those providing input agreed with the other policy statements. (The conclusion that allogeneic HSCT is investigational for salvage therapy was a late addition to the policy and was not sent for clinical input.)

POEMS Syndrome
A Cochrane review published in 2012 provides a comprehensive source of information on treatment of POEMS.11 The authors performed a broad literature search, including CENTRAL (2012, Issue 2), MEDLINE (January 1966 to February 2012), EMBASE (January 1980 to February 2012), and CINAHL Plus (January 1937 to February 2012). They identified no RCTs, no quasi-RCTs, no historically controlled trials or trials with concurrent controls that met their study selection criteria. The Cochrane review included 6 small series of patients (total n=57) who underwent autologous HSCT. Two-year survival rates ranged from 94% to 100%. The results suggest that if all published experience with autologous HSCT was pooled, transplant-related mortality would be 3 of 112 (2.7%). The authors caution that long-term outcomes with autologous HSCT have not been elucidated and require continuing study.

A second 2012 review article indicates case series suggest most patients achieve at least some neurologic and functional improvement using conditioning doses of melphalan ranging from 140 to 200 mg/m².(5) Responses have been reported as durable but relapse occurs. Symptomatic progression has typically been reported as rare, with most progressions identified as rising vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and radiographic. This author also reports that long-term outcomes with autologous HSCT are unclear given the sparse numbers.

A single-center series published in 2012 from Mayo Clinic reported a 5-year OS of 94% and a PFS of 75% among 59 patients entered between 1999 and late 2011.(49) A second recent series included 9 advanced POEMS syndrome patients who had an Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group performance status score of 3 or 4 and were treated with high-dose melphalan therapy followed by autologous stem cell-transplantation from 2004 to 2011.(50) Eight patients achieved an initial hematologic response, 4 of whom had complete responses. At a median follow-up of 44 months (range, 8-94 months), 7 patients were alive, with 3-year OS rate of 78%. There were no hematologic relapses in the survivors. One patient died of disease progression; the other died of pneumonia, despite a hematologic response 3 months after autologous stem-cell transplantation. All survivors achieved improvement in general performance status and in clinical response. The responses observed in these patients with advanced POEMS suggest it is a valid treatment option for such cases.

Summary of Evidence

Multiple Myeloma
Several prospective, randomized trials have been conducted that compared conventional chemotherapy with high-dose therapy and autologous hematopoietic stem-cell transplantation (HSCT) for patients with newly diagnosed multiple myeloma. In general, superior complete response rates and prolongation of progression-free and overall survival have been demonstrated with autologous HSCT.

A systematic review that summarized data from 4 clinical series found that some myeloma patients who relapsed after a first autologous HSCT achieved durable partial or complete remissions after a second autologous HSCT as salvage therapy.

Randomized trials that compared a single autologous with a tandem autologous HSCT have shown improved survival with the use of tandem HSCT. However, the benefit of the second HSCT appears to be limited to patients who did not achieve at least a very good partial response with the first transplant.

The results of trials that compared tandem autologous-reduced-intensity conditioning (RIC) allogeneic HSCT with tandem autologous-autologous HSCT have shown conflicting results; most studies have not shown a survival benefit with tandem autologous-RIC allogeneic, and have shown higher transplant- related mortality. Factors across studies that may account for differing trial results include different study
designs, nonuniform preparative regimens, different patient characteristics (including risk stratification) and criteria for advancing to a second transplant. The future use of tandem autologous-RIC allogeneic in treating myeloma will depend on additional trials with longer follow-up data.

Allogeneic HSCT with myeloablative conditioning may cure a minority of patients but is associated with a high transplant-related mortality. Nonmyeloablative allogeneic HSCT as first-line therapy is associated with lower transplant-related mortality but a greater risk of relapse, and convincing evidence is lacking that allogeneic HSCT improves survival compared with autologous HSCT.  Therefore, allogeneic HSCT in treating myeloma is considered investigational (except as a component of a tandem autologous-RIC allogeneic HSCT).

POEMS Syndrome
No randomized controlled trials of HSCT have been performed in patients with POEMS syndrome, nor is it likely such studies will be performed because of the rarity of this condition. Available case reports and series are subject to selection bias and are heterogeneous with respect to treatment approaches and peritransplant support. However, for autologous HSCT, a chain of indirect evidence suggests improved
health outcomes, as several case studies have reported good clinical responses. In addition, certain contextual factors and strong clinical consensus support that autologous HSCT may be considered medically necessary for disseminated POEMS syndrome. Allogeneic and tandem HSCT are considered investigational to treat POEMS syndrome.

Practice Guidelines and Position Statements

Hematopoietic Stem-Cell Transplantation
Treatment of Newly Diagnosed Multiple Myeloma Based on Mayo Stratification of Myeloma and Risk-Adapted Therapy (mSMART)

If the patient is considered transplant eligible (off-study), risk status should be determined. If the patient is standard risk, after induction therapy, autologous HSCT is recommended (with the option to continue induction therapy if response is good). If patient is not in CR or very good PR after the first autologous HSCT, a second autologous HSCT may be considered. In patients considered high risk, if after 4 cycles
of bortezomib, lenalidomide, and dexamethasone, (especially if the patient is not in CR), autologous HSCT is recommended (available at:

Treatment of Relapsed Multiple Myeloma Based on Mayo Stratification of Myeloma and Risk-Adapted Therapy (mSMART)
If the patient is considered transplant eligible (off-study), risk status should be determined. If the patient is standard risk and relapsed after autologous transplant, repeat autologous transplant is an option, after a bortezomib or immunomodulatory derivative-containing regimen. If the standard-risk patient is relapsed after conventional chemotherapy, the recommendation is to proceed to autologous HSCT or to repeat the previous regimen to maximum response or 1 year. If the patient is high risk and relapses after an autologous transplant, an autologous followed by an allogeneic transplant is an option in selected patients. If a high-risk patient relapses after bortezomib or immunomodulatory-based initial therapy, autotransplant (followed by allogeneic in selected patients), is recommended (available at:

International Myeloma Working Group Consensus Statement regarding the current status of allogeneic stem-cell transplantation for multiple myeloma(51)
The conclusions and recommendations are as follows: Myeloablative allogeneic HSCT may cure a minority of patients, but is associated with a high transplant-related mortality, but could be evaluated in well-designed prospective clinical trials. Nonmyeloablative allogeneic HSCT as first-line therapy is associated with lower TRM but a greater risk of relapse and convincing evidence is lacking that allogeneic HSCT improves survival compared with autologous HSCT.

2014 National Comprehensive Cancer Network Practice Guidelines(52)

Autologous HSCT
Autologous HSCT is considered a category 1 recommendation as follow-up to induction therapy for newly diagnosed MM and as a category 1 recommendation for relapsed or progressive disease if the patient is considered a transplant candidate.

Repeat autologous HSCT as salvage therapy may be considered for:

  • patients initially treated with primary therapy alone followed by the 1st autologous HSCT when the disease relapsed, who now have progressive disease following the first autologous HSCT (category 2A); and,
  • patients who have progressive disease after the first autologous HSCT (category 2A).

Tandem Autologous-Autologous HSCT
The National Comprehensive Cancer Network Myeloma panel recommends collecting enough stem cells for 2 transplants in all eligible patients. A tandem transplant can be considered for all patients who are candidates for HSCT, and is an option for patients who do not achieve at least a VGPR after the first autologous HSCT. (category 2A)

Allogeneic HSCT
Myeloablative allogeneic HSCT is an accepted option in the setting of a clinical trial (category 2A) in patients with responsive or primary progressive disease or as salvage therapy in patients with progressive disease following an initial autologous HSCT. Allogeneic HSCT may include nonmyeloablative allogeneic HSCT following an autologous HSCT (category 2A) or myeloablative allogeneic HSCT on a clinical trial (off trial category 3). Current data do not support nonmyeloablative allogeneic HSCT alone.

POEMS Syndrome
NCCN guidelines do not address the treatment of POEMS syndrome.(52)

U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Recommendations
Hematopoietic stem-cell transplantation is not a preventive service.

Medicare National Coverage
There is no national coverage determination (NCD). In the absence of an NCD, coverage decisions are left to the discretion of local Medicare carriers.


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Management of recipient hematopoietic cell donor search and cell acquisition 



Blood-derived hematopoietic progenitor cell harvesting for transplantation, per collection, allogeneic 



Blood-derived hematopoietic progenitor cell harvesting for transplantation, per collection, autologous 



Transplant preparation of hematopoietic progenitor cells; thawing of previously frozen harvest, without washing, per donor



Thawing of previously frozen harvest, with washing, per donor



Specific cell depletion with harvest, T-cell depletion



Tumor-cell depletion 



Red blood cell removal 



Platelet depletion 



Plasma (volume) depletion 



Cell concentration in plasma, mononuclear, or buffy coat layer 



Bone marrow, aspiration only 



Bone marrow; biopsy, needle or trocar

  38230 Bone marrow harvesting for transplantation; allogeneic
  38232 Bone marrow harvesting for transplantation; autologous



Bone marrow or blood-derived peripheral stem-cell transplantation; allogeneic 



Bone marrow or blood-derived peripheral stem-cell transplantation; autologous 



Allogeneic donor lymphocyte infusions 

ICD-9 Procedure 

41.00 Bone marrow transplant, not otherwise specified



Autologous bone marrow transplant without purging 



Allogeneic bone marrow transplant with purging 



Allogeneic bone marrow transplant without purging 



Autologous hematopoietic stem-cell transplant without purging 



Allogenic hematopoietic stem-cell transplant without purging 

  41.07 Autologous hematopoietic stem-cell transplant with purging
  41.08 Allogeneic hematopoietic stem-cell transplant with purging
  41.09 Autologous bone marrow transplant with purging



Aspiration of bone marrow from donor for transplant 



Other therapeutic apheresis (includes harvest of stem cells) 

ICD-9 Diagnosis 


Multiple myeloma coding range



Chemotherapy administration code range 



Chemotherapy drug code range 



Cord blood harvesting for transplantation, allogeneic 



Cord blood-derived stem-cell transplantation, allogeneic 



Bone marrow or blood-derived peripheral stem-cell harvesting and transplantation, allogeneic or autologous, including pheresis, high-dose chemotherapy, and the number of days of post-transplant care in the global definition (including drugs; hospitalization; medical surgical, diagnostic and emergency services) 

ICD-10-CM (effective 10/1/15) C90.00-C90.02 Multiple myeloma code range
  E88.09 Other disorders of plasma-protein metabolism, not elsewhere classified
ICD-10-PCS (effective 10/1/15)    ICD-10-PCS codes are only used for inpatient services.
  30250G0, 30250X0,
Administration, circulatory, transfusion, peripheral artery, open, autologous, code by substance (bone marrow, cord blood or stem cells, hematopoietic)
   30250G1, 30250X1,
Administration, circulatory, transfusion, peripheral artery, open, nonautologous, code by substance (bone marrow, cord blood or stem cells, hematopoietic)
   30253G0, 30253X0,
Administration, circulatory, transfusion, peripheral artery, percutaneous, autologous, code by substance (bone marrow, cord blood or stem cells, hematopoietic)
   30253G1, 30253X1,
Administration, circulatory, transfusion, peripheral artery, percutaneous, nonautologous, code by substance (bone marrow, cord blood or stem cells, hematopoietic)
   6A550ZT, 6A550ZV Extracorporeal Therapies, pheresis, circulatory, single, code by substance (cord blood, or stem cells, hematopoietic)
   6A551ZT, 6A551ZV Extracorporeal Therapies, pheresis, circulatory, multiple, code by substance (cord blood, or stem cells, hematopoietic)

Type of Service 


Place of Service 




Multiple Myeloma, Myeloablative Chemotherapy
Myeloablative Chemotherapy, Multiple Myeloma
Tandem Transplant, Multiple Myeloma

Policy History


Date Action Reason
07/10/98 Add to Therapy section New policy
12/01/99 Replace policy Consolidated original policy No. 8.01.17 with additional indications for high-dose chemotherapy for multiple myeloma addressed in original policy No. 8.01.15. However, policy statements are unchanged
08/18/00 Replace policy Policy statement revised to state that allogeneic transplant after a prior failed autotransplant is considered investigational, based on 2000 TEC Assessment
11/20/01 Replace policy Revised policy; added information on high-dose chemotherapy for primary amyloidosis; considered investigational
12/18/02 Replace policy Update CPT codes only
10/09/03 Replace policy Revised policy; updated literature; policy statements remain unchanged. Information on plasma cell dyscrasias and Waldenstrom’s macroglobulinemia now addressed in a separate policy (No. 8.01.42)
02/25/04 Replace policy Revised policy; updated literature on tandem transplants; policy statement on tandem transplants revised
04/16/04 Replace policy Revised policy; added policy statement regarding repeat autotransplants for relapse after initial autotransplant
05/23/05 Replace policy Policy updated with literature search; no change in policy statement
7/20/06 Replace policy Policy updated with literature search; no change in policy statement; reference numbers 32–35 added
07/10/08 Replace policy  Policy updated with literature search in June 2008, reference numbers 38-43 added. “High-dose chemotherapy” removed from policy title and policy statements. “Stem cell transplantation” (SCT) now used instead of “stem cell support” (SCS) in policy and policy statements. Intent of current policy statements unchanged. New policy statement added regarding situations when autologous SCT may be indicated for patients with primary progressive myeloma.
01/14/10 Replace policy Policy extensively revised with literature search; clinical input reviewed. Policy statements updated to reflect current practice. Allogeneic HSCT as salvage therapy added to policy statement as investigational. References 1, 35 updated; references 2, 20, 21 added. Code table updated.
3/10/11 Replace policy Policy updated with literature search. Minor change to policy statements (added phrase “in the tandem sequence” to the medically necessary tandem autologous-autologous statement). References 36-38 added; reference 1 updated
04/12/12 Replace policy Policy updated with literature search; no change in policy statements; reference numbers 13-15 and 38 added; reference 43 updated; references renumbered.
8/08/13 Replace policy Policy title changed. Policy updated with literature search through mid-March 2013; no change in multiple myeloma policy statements. POEMS syndrome added, with a medically necessary statement for autologous HSCT for disseminated disease; allogeneic and tandem HSCT for POEMS are investigational. Reference numbers 1, 6-9, 43 were removed, references 3-11, 47 were added and all were renumbered.
8/14/14 Replace policy Policy updated with literature review through June 15, 2014; no change in policy statements. References 2-3 were removed, numbers 1, 32, 42, 47- 48, and 50 were added






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