Nelson Jen An Chao, MD

Professor of Medicine
Donald D. and Elizabeth G. Cooke Cancer Distinguished Research Professor
Professor in Immunology
Research Professor of Global Health
Professor in Pathology
Chief, Division of Cell Therapy in the Department of Medicine
Member of the Duke Cancer Institute
Affiliate of the Duke Regeneration Center
Campus mail 2400 Pratt St Suite 5000, DUMC Box 3961, Durham, NC 27710
Phone (919) 668-1000
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.

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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


Piryani, Sadhna O., Angel Y. F. Kam, Uyen T. Vu, Nelson J. Chao, and Phuong L. Doan. “CCR5 Signaling Promotes Murine and Human Hematopoietic Regeneration following Ionizing Radiation.” Stem Cell Reports 13, no. 1 (July 9, 2019): 76–90.

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Cardones, Adela R., Keith M. Sullivan, Cindy Green, Nelson J. Chao, Krista Rowe-Nichols, Lionel L. Bañez, Claude S. Burton, et al. “Interrater Reliability of Clinical Grading Measures for Cutaneous Chronic Graft-vs-Host Disease.” Jama Dermatol 155, no. 7 (July 1, 2019): 833–37.

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Racioppi, Luigi, Erik R. Nelson, Wei Huang, Debarati Mukherjee, Scott A. Lawrence, William Lento, Anna Maria Masci, et al. “CaMKK2 in myeloid cells is a key regulator of the immune-suppressive microenvironment in breast cancer.” Nat Commun 10, no. 1 (June 4, 2019): 2450.

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Piryani, Sadhna O., Yiqun Jiao, Angel Y. F. Kam, Yang Liu, Tuan Vo-Dinh, Benny J. Chen, Nelson J. Chao, and Phuong L. Doan. “Endothelial Cell-Derived Extracellular Vesicles Mitigate Radiation-Induced Hematopoietic Injury.” Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 104, no. 2 (June 1, 2019): 291–301.

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Jauhari, Shekeab, Alicia D. Volkheimer, Ian Barak, Eross Guadalupe, J Brice Weinberg, Nelson Jen An Chao, Zhiguo Li, and Luigi Racioppi. “Expression and prognostic relevance of calcium calmodulin-dependent protein kinase kinase 2 (CaMKK2) in chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL).” In Journal of Clinical Oncology, Vol. 37. AMER SOC CLINICAL ONCOLOGY, 2019.


Schroeder, Kristin, Fatima Alvi, Hartlee Johnston, Nestory Andrew Masalu, and Nelson Jen An Chao. “Impact of a pilot patient navigator program on pediatric cancer outcomes in a low resource setting.” In Journal of Clinical Oncology, 37:e18152–e18152. American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), 2019.

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Zheng, Jing, Yonggang Sha, Logan Roof, Oded Foreman, John Lazarchick, Jagadish Kummetha Venkta, Cleopatra Kozlowski, et al. “Pan-PIM kinase inhibitors enhance Lenalidomide's anti-myeloma activity via cereblon-IKZF1/3 cascade.” Cancer Lett 440–441 (January 2019): 1–10.

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Hale, Laura P., Gowrisankar Rajam, George M. Carlone, Chen Jiang, Kouros Owzar, Greg Dugan, David Caudell, et al. “Late effects of total body irradiation on hematopoietic recovery and immune function in rhesus macaques.” Plos One 14, no. 2 (2019): e0210663.

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Huang, Wei, Wenjian Mo, Jieling Jiang, Nelson J. Chao, and Benny J. Chen. “Donor Allospecific CD44high Central Memory T Cells Have Decreased Ability to Mediate Graft-vs.-Host Disease.” Front Immunol 10 (2019): 624.

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