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DESCRIPTIONAdoptive immunotherapy is a method of activating lymphocytes for the treatment of cancer and other diseases. It involves the removal of lymphocytes from a patient with cancer, modification of the lymphocytes to increase their reactivity to the cancer, and transfer of the cells back into the patient to treat the cancer. Both non-specific and specific lymphocyte activation are used therapeutically. Non-specific, polyclonal proliferation of lymphocytes by cytokines (immune system growth factors), also called autolymphocyte therapy (ALT), increases the number of activated lymphocytes. Initially, this was done by harvesting peripheral lymphokine-activated killer (LAK) cells and activating them in vitro with the T-cell growth factor interleukin-2 (IL-2) and other cytokines. More recent techniques yield select populations of lymphocytes with specific reactivity to tumor antigens. Peripheral lymphocytes are propagated in vitro with antigen-presenting dendritic cells that have been pulsed with tumor antigens. Alternatively, tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TIL) from the tumor biopsy are propagated in vitro with IL-2 and anti-CD3 antibody, a T-cell activator.
The spontaneous regression of certain cancers, such as renal cell cancer or melanoma, supports the idea that the patient's immune system is sometimes capable of delaying tumor progression and on rare occasions can eliminate the tumor altogether. These observations have lead to research interest in a variety of immunologic therapies designed to stimulate the patient's own immune systems. The major research challenge in adoptive immunotherapy is to develop immune cells with anti-tumor reactivity in quantities sufficient for transfer to tumor-bearing patients. In current trials, two methods are studied: adoptive cellular therapy (ACT) and antigen-loaded dendritic cell infusions.
ACT is “the administration of a patient’s own (autologous) or donor (allogeneic) anti-tumour lymphocytes following a lymphodepleting preparative regimen.” Protocols vary, but include these common steps:
Dendritic cell-based immunotherapy uses autologous dendritic cells (ADC) to activate a lymphocyte-mediated cytotoxic response against specific antigens in vivo. ADCs harvested from the patient are either pulsed with antigen or transfected with a viral vector bearing a common cancer antigen. The activated ADCs are then transfused back into the patient, where they present antigen to effector lymphocytes (CD4+ T cells, CD8+ T cells, and in some cases, B cells). This initiates a cytotoxic response against the antigen and against any cell expressing the antigen. In cancer immunotherapy, ADCs are pulsed with tumor antigens; effector lymphocytes then mount a cytotoxic response against tumor cells expressing these antigens.
In an attempt to further regulate the host immune system, recent protocols use various cytokines (e.g., IL-7 and IL-15 instead of IL-2) to propagate lymphocytes. Protocols also differ in the extent of host lymphodepletion induced prior to transfusing the lymphocytes to the tumor-bearing host.
Note: Allogeneic stem-cell transplantation following nonmyeloablative conditioning of the recipient (known as reduced-intensity conditioning or RIC) may also be referred to as “adoptive immunotherapy” in the literature. However, RIC stem-cell transplantation relies on a donor-versus-malignancy effect of donor lymphocytes, while the adoptive immunotherapy techniques described in this policy enhance autoimmune effects primarily. The use of RIC in stem-cell transplantation is discussed for specific cancers in individual policies related to stem-cell transplantation.
See Active Specific Immunotherapy with Therapeutic Melanoma Vaccines and Tumor Vaccines policies (added 7-12-2001)
POLICYAdoptive immunotherapy, using adoptive cellular therapy (ACT) for the administration of lymphokine-activated killer cells (LAK) tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TIL), or antigen-loaded dendritic cells (ADCs) is considered investigational.
Other applications of adoptive immunotherapy are considered investigational.
POLICY GUIDELINESAutologous lymphocytes used as part of adoptive immunotherapy may be harvested in a pheresis procedure, or may be isolated from resected tumor tissue.
Investigative service is defined as the use of any treatment procedure, facility, equipment, drug, device, or supply not yet recognized by certifying boards and/or approving or licensing agencies or published peer review criteria as standard, effective medical practice for the treatment of the condition being treated and as such therefore is not considered medically necessary.
The coverage guidelines outlined in the Medical Policy Manual should not be used in lieu of the Member's specific benefit plan language.
POLICY HISTORY5/1994: Approved by Medical Policy Advisory Committee (MPAC)
8/1998: Reviewed by MPAC; expanded investigational indications
2/2001: Active Specific Immunotherapy with Therapeutic Melanoma Vaccines reviewed by MPAC; considered investigational
4/16/2001: Managed Care Requirements deleted
7/12/2001: MPAC statement 2/2001 added and hyperlink to Active Specific Immunotherapy with Therapeutic Melanoma Vaccines
2/7/2002: Investigational definition added
4/18/2002: Type of Service and Place of Service deleted
3/17/2003: Code Reference section updated
10/13/2004: Code Reference section reviewed, no changes
11/7/2005: Code Reference section updated, ICD9 diagnosis code V58.12 added
8/17/2007: Policy reviewed, no changes
12/19/2008: Policy reviewed, policy statement re-written for clarity
04/23/2010: Policy description and guidelines updated based on new rearch findings. Policy statement unchanged. Deleted outdated references in the Sources section.
01/19/2012: Policy reviewed; no changes.
04/02/2013: Policy reviewed; no changes.
SOURCE(S)Blue Cross Blue Shield Association policy #8.01.01
CODE REFERENCEThis may not be a comprehensive list of procedure codes applicable to this policy.