Keith Michael Sullivan, MD

Professor of Medicine
James B. Wyngaarden 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


Chen, Chien-Shing, M. Boeckh, K. Seidel, J. G. Clark, E. Kansu, D. K. Madtes, J. L. Wagner, et al. “Incidence, risk factors, and mortality from pneumonia developing late after hematopoietic stem cell transplantation..” Bone Marrow Transplant 32, no. 5 (September 2003): 515–22.

Full Text

Iannone, Robert, James F. Casella, Ephraim J. Fuchs, Allen R. Chen, Richard J. Jones, Ann Woolfrey, Michael Amylon, Keith M. Sullivan, Rainer F. Storb, and Mark C. Walters. “Results of minimally toxic nonmyeloablative transplantation in patients with sickle cell anemia and beta-thalassemia..” Biol Blood Marrow Transplant 9, no. 8 (August 2003): 519–28.


Kansu, E., Y. Koç, and K. M. Sullivan. “Chronic graft-versus-host disease after allogeneic stem cell transplantation.” Turkish Journal of Cancer 33, no. 1 (January 1, 2003): 9–22.


Nash, R. A., P. A. McSweeney, R. Storb, K. M. Sullivan, A. Langston, J. L. Sunderhaus, M. Wener, and D. Furst. “Treatment of severe systemic sclerosis with allogenic marrow transplantation..” In Blood, 100:460B-461B. AMER SOC HEMATOLOGY, 2002.


Walters, M. C., M. Patience, W. Leisenring, R. G. Steen, C. Zamani, E. Vichinsky, R. Storb, and K. M. Sullivan. “Updated results of bone marrow transplantation (BMT) for sickle cell disease (SCD): Impact on CNS disease..” In Blood, 100:45A-46A. AMER SOC HEMATOLOGY, 2002.


Iannone, R., J. F. Casella, E. J. Fuchs, A. R. Chen, A. Woolfrey, M. Amylon, K. M. Sullivan, R. F. Storb, and M. C. Walters. “Failure of a minimally toxic non-myeloablative regimen to establish stable donor engraftment after transplantation for sickle cell anemia and beta-thalassemia..” In Blood, 100:46A-46A. AMER SOC HEMATOLOGY, 2002.


Nash, R. A., J. D. Bowen, P. A. McSweeney, K. M. Sullivan, Z. S. Pavletic, K. R. Maravilla, J. Al-Omaishi, et al. “Treatment of severe multiple sclerosis (MS) with high-dose immunosuppressive therapy (HDIT) and autologous stem cell transplantation (SCT): 2 year follow-up..” In Blood, 100:864A-864A. AMER SOC HEMATOLOGY, 2002.


McSweeney, Peter A., Richard A. Nash, Keith M. Sullivan, Jan Storek, Leslie J. Crofford, Roger Dansey, Maureen D. Mayes, et al. “High-dose immunosuppressive therapy for severe systemic sclerosis: initial outcomes..” Blood 100, no. 5 (September 1, 2002): 1602–10.


Sullivan, Keith M. “Bone marrow transplantation for non-malignant disease..” Int J Hematol 76 Suppl 1 (August 2002): 169–70.