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


Sullivan, K. M., H. M. Shulman, R. Storb, P. L. Weiden, R. P. Witherspoon, G. B. McDonald, M. M. Schubert, K. Atkinson, and E. D. Thomas. “Chronic graft-versus-host disease in 52 patients: adverse natural course and successful treatment with combination immunosuppression.” Blood 57, no. 2 (February 1981): 267–76.


Shulman, H. M., K. M. Sullivan, P. L. Weiden, G. B. McDonald, G. E. Striker, G. E. Sale, R. Hackman, M. S. Tsoi, R. Storb, and E. D. Thomas. “Chronic graft-versus-host syndrome in man. A long-term clinicopathologic study of 20 Seattle patients.” Am J Med 69, no. 2 (August 1980): 204–17.

Full Text

Atkinson, K., R. Storb, R. L. Prentice, P. L. Weiden, R. P. Witherspoon, K. Sullivan, D. Noel, and E. D. Thomas. “Analysis of late infections in 89 long-term survivors of bone marrow transplantation.” Blood 53, no. 4 (April 1979): 720–31.


Harrison, D. T., P. E. Neiman, K. Sullivan, M. Hafermann, R. H. Rudolph, and A. B. Einstein. “Combined modality therapy for advanced, diffuse lymphocytic and histiocytic lymphomas.” Cancer 42, no. 4 (October 1978): 1697–1704.<1697::aid-cncr2820420407>;2-g.

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Petersen, D. L., L. D. Hudson, and K. Sullivan. “Disseminated Nocardia caviae with positive blood cultures.” Arch Intern Med 138, no. 7 (July 1978): 1164–65.


Shulman, H. M., G. E. Sale, K. G. Lerner, E. A. Barker, P. L. Weiden, K. Sullivan, B. Gallucci, E. D. Thomas, and R. Storb. “Chronic cutaneous graft-versus-host disease in man.” Am J Pathol 91, no. 3 (June 1978): 545–70.