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


Griffith, Linda M., Steven Z. Pavletic, Alan Tyndall, Christopher N. Bredeson, James D. Bowen, Richard W. Childs, Alois Gratwohl, et al. “Feasibility of allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation for autoimmune disease: position statement from a National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and National Cancer Institute-Sponsored International Workshop, Bethesda, MD, March 12 and 13, 2005..” Biol Blood Marrow Transplant 11, no. 11 (November 2005): 862–70.

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Storek, Jan, Zhao Zhao, Eugene Lin, Thomas Berger, Peter A. McSweeney, Richard A. Nash, Yoshiki Akatsuka, et al. “Recovery from and consequences of severe iatrogenic lymphopenia (induced to treat autoimmune diseases)..” Clin Immunol 113, no. 3 (December 2004): 285–98.

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Furst, Daniel E., Richard Nash, Keith M. Sullivan, Riccardo Saccardi, and Peter McSweeney. “High dose immunotherapy with stem cell rescue in severe systemic sclerosis: an idea that is moving forward..” J Rheumatol 31, no. 12 (December 2004): 2331–35.


Walters, Mark C., Melinda Patience, Sandie Edwards, Shanda Robertson, Marsha McMurray, Sharyne Donfield, and Keith M. Sullivan. “Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation for Sickle Cell Disease: Updated Results of the Multicenter Trial..” In Blood, 104:104–104. American Society of Hematology, 2004.

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Furst, D. E., P. A. McSweeney, L. J. Crofford, K. T. McDonagh, K. M. Sullivan, M. D. Mayes, J. L. Nelson, et al. “High-Dose Immunosuppressive Therapy (HDIT) for SSc: Results of 3 year follow-up demonstrate continued improvement in function and skin with stability in the lungs.” In Arthritis and Rheumatism, 50:S693–S693. WILEY-LISS, 2004.


Chao, Nelson J., Liang-Piu Koh, Gwynn D. Long, Cristina Gasparetto, Mitchell Horwitz, Ashley Morris, Martha Lassiter, Keith M. Sullivan, and David A. Rizzieri. “Adult recipients of umbilical cord blood transplants after nonmyeloablative preparative regimens..” Biol Blood Marrow Transplant 10, no. 8 (August 2004): 569–75.

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Nishimura, Jun-Ichi, Yuzuru Kanakura, Russell E. Ware, Tsutomu Shichishima, Hideki Nakakuma, Haruhiko Ninomiya, Carlos M. Decastro, et al. “Clinical course and flow cytometric analysis of paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria in the United States and Japan..” Medicine (Baltimore) 83, no. 3 (May 2004): 193–207.

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Bichindaritz, I., C. Moinpour, E. Kansu, G. Donaldson, N. Bush, and K. M. Sullivan. “Case based reasoning for medical decision-support in a safety critical environment.” Lecture Notes in Computer Science (Including Subseries Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence and Lecture Notes in Bioinformatics) 2780 LNAI (December 1, 2003): 314–23.

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Woodard, J. P., J. M. Cunningham, K. M. Sullivan, N. R. Kamani, and M. C. Walters. “Bronchiolitis obliterans organizing pneumonia (BOOP) after bone marrow transplantation (BMT) for sickle cell disease (SCD): Association with acute chest syndrome (ACS)..” In Blood, 102:460B-461B. AMER SOC HEMATOLOGY, 2003.