Keith Michael Sullivan, MD

Professor of Medicine
James B. Wyngaarden Distinguished Professor of Medicine, in the School of Medicine
Member of the Duke Cancer Institute
Campus mail Box 3961 Med Ctr, Durham, NC 27710
Phone (919) 668-1000
Email address

Research areas

  • Late effects of cancer treatment and stem cell transplantation 
  • Chronic graft-versus-host disease 
  • Transplantation for sickle cell and autoimmune diseases 
  • Knowledge engineering

Early on, Dr. Sullivan and the team at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center developed a systematic investigative approach for the diagnosis and treatment of chronic graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), the major cause of late morbidity and non-relapse mortality following allogeneic stem cell transplantation (SCT). As a result of this work, it became clear that blood and marrow transplant recipients require systematic long-term follow-up to evaluate and treat late complications of high-dose chemoradiotherapy and SCT.

The program grew into a large multidisciplinary team, resulting in improvement in patient outcome and quality of life. Through the late events project, he also contributed to outcomes research, computer decision support systems, and knowledge engineering for follow-up care. With quality of life as a focus, research pursued the application of SCT to diseases with high morbidity but little immediate mortality. For young patients with advanced, symptomatic sickle cell disease, myeloablative conditioning and SCT from an HLA-identical sibling has led to an 86% long-term survival free of sickle cell disease. For individuals with autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, scleroderma, and systemic lupus erythematosus, current therapy is often incomplete and significant morbidity from the disease or its treatment is observed.

Recent preclinical and clinical data suggest that high-dose immunosupression and SCT can halt the progression and, in some settings, reverse the course of autoimmune diseases. Since his arrival at Duke University, over 30 centers nationwide are participating in Duke-led phase II and III trials to test the toxicity, efficacy, and quality of life following autologous and allogeneic stem cell transplantation for autoimmune diseases.

These trials will also serve as platforms to study the immune repertoire and mechanistic pathways before and after SCT to gain greater insight into the basic mechanisms of autoimmunity.

A national repository of tissue and cell specimens is also part of these NIH-supported trials to further promote scientific study from these unique patients.

In Their Words

Education and Training

  • M.D., Indiana University at Indianapolis, 1971


Cardones, Adela R., Russell P. Hall, Keith M. Sullivan, Joanna Hooten, Seung Yun Lee, Beiyu Liu, Cynthia L. Green, et al. “Quantifying Skin Stiffness in Graft-Versus-Host Disease, Morphea, and Systemic Sclerosis Using Acoustic Radiation Force Impulse Imaging and Shear Wave Elastography.” J Invest Dermatol 141, no. 4 (April 2021): 924-927.e2.

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Bellocchi, Chiara, Jun Ying, Ellen A. Goldmuntz, Lynette Keyes-Elstein, John Varga, Monique E. Hinchcliff, Marka A. Lyons, et al. “Large-Scale Characterization of Systemic Sclerosis Serum Protein Profile: Comparison to Peripheral Blood Cell Transcriptome and Correlations With Skin/Lung Fibrosis.” Arthritis Rheumatol 73, no. 4 (April 2021): 660–70.

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Shah, A., J. Spierings, J. M. van Laar, and K. M. Sullivan. “Re-evaluating inclusion criteria for autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation in advanced systemic sclerosis: Three successful cases and review of the literature.” Journal of Scleroderma and Related Disorders, January 1, 2021.

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Maung, Ko K., Benny J. Chen, Ian Barak, Zhiguo Li, David A. Rizzieri, Cristina Gasparetto, Keith M. Sullivan, et al. “Phase I dose escalation study of naive T-cell depleted donor lymphocyte infusion following allogeneic stem cell transplantation.” Bone Marrow Transplant 56, no. 1 (January 2021): 137–43.

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Franks, Jennifer M., Viktor Martyanov, Yue Wang, Tammara A. Wood, Ashley Pinckney, Leslie J. Crofford, Lynette Keyes-Elstein, et al. “Machine learning predicts stem cell transplant response in severe scleroderma.” Ann Rheum Dis 79, no. 12 (December 2020): 1608–15.

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Tay, J., S. Beattie, C. Bredeson, R. Brazauskas, N. He, I. A. Ahmed, M. Aljurf, et al. “Pre-Transplant Marital Status and Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation Outcomes.” Curr Oncol 27, no. 6 (December 2020): e596–606.

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Tay, J., S. Beattie, C. Bredeson, R. Brazauskas, N. He, I. A. Ahmed, M. Aljurf, et al. “Pre-Transplant Marital Status and Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation Outcomes.” Curr Oncol 27, no. 6 (December 1, 2020): 596–606.

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Smith, Patrick, Jillian C. Thompson, Elena Perea, Brian Wasserman, Lauren Bohannon, Alessandro Racioppi, Taewoong Choi, et al. “Clinical and Neuroimaging Correlates of Post-Transplant Delirium.” Biol Blood Marrow Transplant 26, no. 12 (December 2020): 2323–28.

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Keyes-Elstein, Lynette, Erica Brittain, Ashley Pinckney, Ellen A. Goldmuntz, and Keith M. Sullivan. “Safety and efficacy of HSCT for systemic sclerosis across clinical trials.” Nat Rev Rheumatol 16, no. 11 (November 2020): 661.

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