Medical Policy

Subject: Blinatumomab (Blincyto®)
Document #: DRUG.00076 Current Effective Date:    06/28/2017
Status: Revised Last Review Date:    05/04/2017


This document addresses uses of blinatumomab (Blincyto, Amgen Inc., Thousand Oaks, CA). Blinatumomab is a bispecific T-cell engager designed to promote the lysis of cancer cells by binding simultaneously with both the CD3 protein on cytotoxic T-cells and the CD19 protein, a B-cell specific lymphocyte antigen expressed in specific types of acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL).

Position Statement

Medically Necessary:

Blinatumomab is considered medically necessary for the treatment of individuals with acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) when all of the following criteria are met:

  1. Relapsed or refractory disease; and
  2. CD19+ B-cell precursor ALL; and
  3. Administered as a single-agent.

Investigational and Not Medically Necessary:

Blinatumomab is considered investigational and not medically necessary in individuals when the criteria above are not met and for all other indications, including, but not limited to:

  1. Use as first-line of therapy for ALL;
  2. Evidence of active ALL central nervous system involvement;
  3. Use in combination with other chemotherapy agents;
  4. Treatment of diffuse large B-Cell lymphoma (DLBCL).

On December 3, 2014, blinatumomab was the first anti-CD19 drug granted approval by United States (U.S.) Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Approval was granted through an accelerated process and only for the single-agent treatment of Philadelphia chromosome-negative (Ph-negative) relapsed or refractory B-cell precursor ALL. Accelerated approval "…allows approval of a drug to treat a serious or life-threatening disease based on clinical data showing the drug has an effect on a surrogate endpoint reasonably likely to predict clinical benefit to patients" (FDA Product Information [PI] Label, 2016). The FDA label was updated in 2016 to indicate that the safety of blinatumomab in the pediatric population has been established. Sustained approval of blinatumomab is dependent on continued safety and efficacy demonstrated through ongoing clinical trials, including data validating improvement of overall survival (OS) in this rare form of leukemia.

Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL)

FDA approval was based on a study by Topp and colleagues (2015) who conducted an open-label, multi-center, single-arm, phase II trial in 189 adults (18 years and older) with primary refractory or recently relapsed (within 12 months) Ph-negative, B-precursor ALL. Participants in this study were required to have at least 10% bone marrow blasts and Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG) performance status of 2 or better and be blinatumomab naïve. Notable exclusion criteria included central nervous system (CNS) disease, ALL in the testes, Burkitt's leukemia, Philadelphia chromosome-positive (Ph-positive) disease, history of a malignancy other than leukemia in the previous 5 years, autoimmune disease or chronic infection, acute or active chronic graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) within the past 6 weeks, and allogeneic HSCT within the previous 3 months (Topp, 2015).

Enrolled study participants received at least 2 cycles. A cycle consisted of intravenous blinatumomab administered continuously at a target dose of 28 μg/day for 4 weeks, followed by a 2-week treatment-free period. If participants achieved a complete response (CR) or CR with partial recovery of peripheral blood counts (CRh or partial response [PR]) within the first 2 cycles, they could receive an additional 3 cycles. Disease assessment was performed through bone marrow examination. The primary outcome of interest was CR or CRh within the first 2 treatment cycles. Secondary endpoints included relapse-free survival time, OS, proportion of responders who received allogeneic HSCT after blinatumomab-induced CR or CRh and incidence and severity of adverse events (Topp, 2015).

After 2 treatment cycles with blinatumomab, 81 participants (43%; 95% confidence interval [CI], 36-50) achieved a CR or CRh (63 [33%] and 18 [10%], respectively), with 79% of the 81 responders achieving a CR or CRh within 1 cycle. A total of 32 (40%) of those who achieved CR or CRh subsequently underwent allogeneic HSCT. After a median follow-up period of 8.9 months, 45% of responders who had achieved a CR or CRh were alive and still in remission. The remaining 45 participants had either relapsed (n=37) or died without documentation of relapse (n=7; 6 of which were following an HSCT, 1 of infection). The median relapse-free survival for the entire cohort was 5.9 months, and 6.9 months for those who had achieved a CR or CRh. The median OS for all 189 participants was 6.1 months, with a median follow-up of 9.8 months. Previous receipt of an HSCT did not appear to affect achievement of CR or CRh in this population. The primary outcomes achieved were especially notable given that the study sample was selected for negative prognostic factors such as 10% or more bone marrow blasts at baseline and 34% had failure of a previous HSCT (Topp, 2015).

The safety and efficacy of blinatumomab in the pediatric population was established in a phase I/II clinical trial which enrolled 70 children with relapsed or refractory ALL, ages 1 month thorough 18 years. Safety and efficacy in this population was not found to be substantially different than previously reported results in adults. Among those treated, 39% (n=27) achieved a CR within the first two cycles (primary endpoint) (von Stackelberg, 2016).

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network® (NCCN® ) Clinical Practice Guidelines (CPG) for ALL (2017) includes a 2A recommendation for the use of blinatumomab to treat Ph-positive disease that is refractory to tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) therapy. This recommendation is based on data from an earlier open-label, phase II, single-arm trial which enrolled 21 subjects with relapsed or refractory disease, only 5 of which were Ph-positive (Topp, 2011). Of the 5 that were Ph-positive, 3 achieved the primary outcome of minimal residual disease. The Alcantara clinical trial was recently completed and had a target enrollment of 45 individuals with relapsed/refractory Ph-positive ALL intolerant to at least one TKI (NCT02000427). The results are not yet published but will provide further evidence regarding the safety and efficacy of blinatumomab as a treatment for individuals with Ph-positive ALL.

The most frequent grade 3 or worse adverse events were febrile neutropenia (n=48, 25%), neutropenia (n=30, 16%), and anemia (n=27, 14%). Grade 3 cytokine release syndrome occurred in 3 (2%) participants. Grade 3 or 4 neurological events occurred in 24 (13%) participants. Sepsis was thought to be the cause of 3 suspected treatment-related deaths. Authors conclude "Single-agent blinatumomab showed antileukaemia activity in adult patients with relapsed or refractory B-precursor acute lymphoblastic leukaemia...Further assessment of blinatumomab treatment earlier in the course of the disease and in combination with other treatment approaches is warranted" (Topp, 2015). There is evidence, albeit limited, of an adequate safety profile and efficacy in geriatric cases (Schlegel, 2014; Topp, 2015). Further investigation is warranted in this distinct population.


The safety and efficacy of blinatumomab as a single-agent treatment for lymphoma has been investigated in the setting of a Phase II dose-finding clinical trial of 21 participants with relapsed/refractory diffused large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) (Viardot, 2016). Following a single cycle, the overall response rate was 43% including 4 who achieved a CR (19%). A total of 5 participants (22%) discontinued treatment due to adverse events (mostly grade 3 neurologic events). There is currently no NCCN recommendation for the use of blinatumomab as a treatment option for DLBCL. Further research is warranted into the safety and efficacy of blinatumomab as a treatment for relapsed/refractory DLBCL.


ALL is an aggressive type of leukemia that involves an overabundance of lymphoblasts or lymphocytes in the bone marrow and peripheral blood. In 2017, there will be an estimated 5970 new cases of ALL and 1440 deaths (American Cancer Society, 2017). Although more than 80% of individuals treated for ALL achieve a CR, nearly half will relapse. A safe, consistently effective treatment for refractory and relapsed ALL continues to present a challenge to the oncologic community (Topp, 2011). At this time, HSCT is the most effective treatment option for relapsed/refractory ALL; however, achievement of CR is a vital step in the transplantation process (Topp, 2015).

Blinatumomab, received U.S. FDA breakthrough therapy designation and accelerated approval for the treatment of Ph-negative precursor B-cell ALL. This monoclonal antibody is a bispecific T-cell engager designed to promote the lysis of cancer cells by binding simultaneously with both the CD3 protein on cytotoxic T-cells and the CD19 protein expressed in specific types of ALL (FDA PI Label, 2016).

Adverse Events and Warnings 

Black box warnings from the FDA PI Label (2016) include the following information and recommendations:

Additional Warnings from the FDA PI Label (2016) include:

Blinatumomab is currently being investigated as a treatment for newly diagnosed ALL and in combination with other chemotherapy drugs.


Complete response (CR): The disappearance of all signs of cancer as a result of treatment; also called complete remission; does not indicate the cancer has been cured.

Graft versus host disease (GVHD): A life-threatening complication of bone marrow transplants in which the donated marrow causes an immune reaction against the recipient's body.

Hematopoietic stem cells: Cells that give rise to distinct daughter cells, one cell that replicates the stem cell and one cell that will further proliferate and differentiate into a mature blood cell.

Line of therapy:

Monoclonal antibody: A protein developed in the laboratory that can locate and bind to specific substances in the body and on the surface of cancer cells.

Partial response: A decrease in the size of a tumor, or in the amount of cancer in the body, resulting from treatment. Also called partial remission.

Refractory disease: Illness or disease that does not respond to treatment.

Relapse: After a period of improvement, the return of signs and symptoms of illness or disease.


The following codes for treatments and procedures applicable to this document are included below for informational purposes. Inclusion or exclusion of a procedure, diagnosis or device code(s) does not constitute or imply member coverage or provider reimbursement policy. Please refer to the member's contract benefits in effect at the time of service to determine coverage or non-coverage of these services as it applies to an individual member.

When services may be Medically Necessary when criteria are met:

J9039 Injection, blinatumomab, 1  microgram [Blincyto]
ICD-10 Diagnosis    
C91.00-C91.02 Acute lymphoblastic leukemia [ALL]  

When services are Investigational and Not Medically Necessary:
For the procedure and diagnosis codes listed above when criteria are not met or for all other diagnoses not listed; or when the code describes a procedure indicated in the Position Statement section as investigational and not medically necessary.


Peer Reviewed Publications:

  1. Franca R, Favretto D, Granzotto M, Decorti G, et al. Epratuzumab and blinatumomab as therapeutic antibodies for treatment of pediatric acute lymphoblastic leukemia: Current status and future perspectives. Curr Med Chem. 2017 Jan 12. [Epub ahead of print].
  2. Kantarjian H, Stein A, Gökbuget N, et al. Blinatumomab versus chemotherapy for advanced acute lymphoblastic leukemia. N Engl J Med. 2017; 376(9):836-847.
  3. Schlegel P, Lang P, Zugmaier G, et al. Pediatric posttransplant relapsed/refractory B-precursor acute lymphoblastic leukemia shows durable remission by therapy with the T-cell engaging bispecific antibody blinatumomab. Haematologica. 2014; 99(7):1212-1219.
  4. Topp MS, Gökbuget N, Stein AS, et al. Safety and activity of blinatumomab for adult patients with relapsed or refractory B-precursor acute lymphoblastic leukaemia: a multicentre, single-arm, phase 2 study. Lancet Oncol. 2015; 16(1):57-66.
  5. Topp MS, Gökbuget N, Zugmaier G, et al. Long-term follow-up of hematologic relapse-free survival in a phase 2 study of blinatumomab in patients with MRD in B-lineage ALL. Blood. 2012; 120(26):5185-5187.
  6. Topp MS, Gökbuget N, Zugmaier G, et al. Phase II trial of the anti-CD19 bispecific T cell-engager blinatumomab shows hematologic and molecular remissions in patients with relapsed or refractory B-precursor acute lymphoblastic leukemia. J Clin Oncol. 2014; 32(36):4134-4140.
  7. Topp MS, Kufer P, Gökbuget N, et al. Targeted therapy with the T-cell-engaging antibody blinatumomab of chemotherapy-refractory minimal residual disease in B-lineage acute lymphoblastic leukemia patients results in high response rate and prolonged leukemia-free survival. J Clin Oncol. 2011; 29(18):2493-2498.
  8. Viardot A, Goebeler ME, Hess G, et al. Phase 2 study of the bispecific T-cell engager (BiTE) antibody blinatumomab in relapsed/refractory diffuse large B-cell lymphoma. Blood. 2016; 127(11):1410-1746.
  9. von Stackelberg A, Locatelli F, Zugmaier G, et al. Phase I/Phase II study of blinatumomab in pediatric patients with relapsed/refractory acute lymphoblastic leukemia. J Clin Oncol. 2016; 34(36):4381-4389.

Government Agency, Medical Society, and Other Authoritative Publications:

  1. Amgen, Inc. Thousand Oaks, CA. Phase 2 Trial of Blinatumomab in Philadelphia Positive/BCR-ABL Positive Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. NLM Identifier: NCT02000427. Last updated February 06, 2017. Available at: . Accessed on March 14, 2017.
  2. Blinatumomab. In: DrugPoints® System (electronic version). Truven Health Analytics, Greenwood Village, CO. Updated November 16, 2016. Available at: Accessed on March 14, 2017.
  3. Blincyto® [Product Information]. Thousand Oaks, CA. Amgen, Inc; Updated August 2016. Available at: . Accessed on March 27, 2017.
  4. National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN)® . NCCN Drugs & Biologic Compendium® (electronic version). For additional information visit the NCCN website: Accessed on March 14, 2017.
  5. NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology® . © 2017 National Comprehensive Cancer Network, Inc. For additional information visit the NCCN website: Accessed on March 24, 2017.
    • Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (V.2.2016). September 29, 2016.
Websites for Additional Information
  1. American Cancer Society (ACS). What are the key statistics about acute lymphocytic leukemia? Available at: Updated on January 05, 2017. Accessed on March 24, 2017.
  2. National Cancer Institute (NCI). Adult acute lymphoblastic leukemia treatment (PDQ® ). Updated March 16, 2017. Available at: . Accessed on March 27, 2017.
  3. National Cancer Institute (NCI).  Blinatumomab. Updated March 03, 2015. Available at: .  Accessed on March 27, 2017.

Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia
Blinatumomab (Blincyto)

The use of specific product names is illustrative only. It is not intended to be a recommendation of one product over another, and is not intended to represent a complete listing of all products available.

Document History
Status Date Action
Revised 05/04/2017 Medical Policy & Technology Assessment Committee (MPTAC) review.
Revised  05/03/2017 Hematology/Oncology Subcommittee review. Added DLBCL to the INV/NMN criteria. Updated Rationale, Background/Overview and References sections.
Revised 05/05/2016 MPTAC review.
Revised 05/04/2016 Hematology/Oncology Subcommittee review. Added CD19+ to the MN Criteria. Updated Reference section.
  01/01/2016 Updated Coding section with 01/01/2016 HCPCS changes, removed C9449 deleted 12/31/2015; also removed ICD-9 codes.
New 05/07/2015 MPTAC review.
New 05/06/2015 Hematology/Oncology Subcommittee review. Initial document development.