Nelson Jen An Chao, MD

Professor of Medicine
Donald D. and Elizabeth G. Cooke Cancer Research Professor
Professor in Immunology
ResearchProfessor of Global Health
Professor in Pathology
Member of the Duke Cancer Institute
Chief, Division of Cell Therapy in the Department of Medicine
Affiliate of the Regeneration Next Initiative
Campus mail 1146 N Pavilion, Durham, NC 27710
Phone (919) 668-1011
Email address

My research interests are in two broad areas, clinical hematopoietic stem cell and cord blood transplantation and in the laboratory studies related to graft vs. host disease and immune reconstitution. On the clinical side we are currently conducting approximately 50 different clinical protocols ranging from preparatory regimens, supportive care studies and disease specific protocols. Most of these clinical studies are centered around studies of the sources of stem cells and the methods to improve the long term outcome. There are exploratory protocols for novel therapies such as dendritic cell therapy for several malignancies, antiangiogenesis therapy, graft engineering to prevent graft-versus-host disease and antigen specific T cells or non specific NK cells to prevent relapse. Moreover a strong focus of the program is to develop cord-blood transplantation for adult patients with hematologic malignancies. The laboratory studies center on understanding the immunological events that occur with graft-vs-host disease and methods to prevent this disease. The current efforts focus on understanding murine reconstitution following transplantation, use of a peptide polymer to block MHC class II recognition of minor histocompatibility antigens, use of T cell engineering to prevent graft-versus-host disease at the same time preserving a graft-versus-malignancy effect.

For more information see

In Their Words

Education and Training

  • Fellow in Oncology, Medicine, Stanford University, 1985 - 1987
  • Medical Resident, Medicine, Stanford University, 1981 - 1984
  • M.D., Yale University, 1981


Chao, NJ, Timmerman, L, McDevitt, HO, and Jacob, CO. "Molecular characterization of MHC class II antigens (beta 1 domain) in the BB diabetes-prone and -resistant rat." Immunogenetics 29, no. 4 (1989): 231-234.


Todd, JA, Acha-Orbea, H, Bell, JI, Chao, N, Fronek, Z, Jacob, CO, McDermott, M, Sinha, AA, Timmerman, L, Steinman, L, and McDevitt, HO. "A molecular basis for MHC class II - Associated autoimmunity." Science 240, no. 4855 (1988): 1003-1009.


Chao, N, Levine, J, and Horning, SJ. "Retroperitoneal fibrosis following treatment for Hodgkin's disease." Journal of Clinical Oncology 5, no. 2 (1987): 231-232.


Yamauchi, K, Chao, N, Murphy, DB, and Gershon, RK. "Molecular composition of an antigen-specific, Ly-1 T suppressor inducer factor. One molecule binds antigen and is I-J-; another is I-J+, does not bind antigen, and imparts an Igh-variable region-linked restriction." The Journal of experimental medicine 155, no. 3 (March 1982): 655-665.

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