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


Nash, R. A., P. A. McSweeney, R. Storb, J. L. Nelson, J. Gauthier, D. E. Furst, and K. M. Sullivan. “Development of a protocol for allogeneic marrow transplantation for severe systemic sclerosis: paradigm for autoimmune disease..” J Rheumatol Suppl 48 (May 1997): 72–78.


Charuhas, P. M., K. L. Fosberg, B. Bruemmer, S. N. Aker, W. Leisenring, K. Seidel, and K. M. Sullivan. “A double-blind randomized trial comparing outpatient parenteral nutrition with intravenous hydration: effect on resumption of oral intake after marrow transplantation..” Jpen J Parenter Enteral Nutr 21, no. 3 (May 1997): 157–61.

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Slattery, J. T., R. A. Clift, C. D. Buckner, J. Radich, B. Storer, W. I. Bensinger, E. Soll, et al. “Marrow transplantation for chronic myeloid leukemia: the influence of plasma busulfan levels on the outcome of transplantation..” Blood 89, no. 8 (April 15, 1997): 3055–60.


Sullivan, K. M., M. C. Walters, M. Patience, W. Leisenring, G. R. Buchanan, O. Castro, S. C. Davies, et al. “Collaborative study of marrow transplantation for sickle cell disease: Aspects specific for transplantation of hemoglobin disorders.” Bone Marrow Transplantation 19, no. SUPPL. 2 (March 1, 1997): 102–5.


Thurston, G. M., D. L. Hayden, P. Burrows, J. I. Clark, V. G. Taret, J. Kandel, M. Courogen, et al. “Quasielastic light scattering study of the living human lens as a function of age..” Curr Eye Res 16, no. 3 (March 1997): 197–207.

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Storek, J., T. Gooley, R. P. Witherspoon, K. M. Sullivan, and R. Storb. “Infectious morbidity in long-term survivors of allogeneic marrow transplantation is associated with low CD4 T cell counts..” Am J Hematol 54, no. 2 (February 1997): 131–38.<131::aid-ajh6>;2-y.

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Nash, R. A., L. A. Piñeiro, R. Storb, H. J. Deeg, W. E. Fitzsimmons, T. Furlong, J. A. Hansen, et al. “FK506 in combination with methotrexate for the prevention of graft-versus-host disease after marrow transplantation from matched unrelated donors..” Blood 88, no. 9 (November 1, 1996): 3634–41.


Walters, M. C., M. Patience, W. Leisenring, J. R. Eckman, J. P. Scott, W. C. Mentzer, S. C. Davies, et al. “Bone marrow transplantation for sickle cell disease..” N Engl J Med 335, no. 6 (August 8, 1996): 369–76.

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Martin, P. J., B. J. Nelson, F. R. Appelbaum, C. Anasetti, H. J. Deeg, J. A. Hansen, G. B. McDonald, et al. “Evaluation of a CD5-specific immunotoxin for treatment of acute graft-versus-host disease after allogeneic marrow transplantation..” Blood 88, no. 3 (August 1, 1996): 824–30.