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


Himburg, Heather A., Phuong L. Doan, Mamle Quarmyne, Xiao Yan, Joshua Sasine, Liman Zhao, Grace V. Hancock, et al. “Dickkopf-1 promotes hematopoietic regeneration via direct and niche-mediated mechanisms.” Nat Med 23, no. 1 (January 2017): 91–99.

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Yan, Xiao, Heather A. Himburg, Katherine Pohl, Mamle Quarmyne, Evelyn Tran, Yurun Zhang, Tiancheng Fang, et al. “Deletion of the Imprinted Gene Grb10 Promotes Hematopoietic Stem Cell Self-Renewal and Regeneration.” Cell Rep 17, no. 6 (November 1, 2016): 1584–94.

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Sung, Anthony D., Julia A. M. Sung, Samantha Thomas, Terry Hyslop, Cristina Gasparetto, Gwynn Long, David Rizzieri, et al. “Universal Mask Usage for Reduction of Respiratory Viral Infections After Stem Cell Transplant: A Prospective Trial.” Clin Infect Dis 63, no. 8 (October 15, 2016): 999–1006.

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Stephens, Sarah J., Samantha Thomas, David A. Rizzieri, Mitchell E. Horwitz, Nelson J. Chao, Ashley M. Engemann, Martha Lassiter, and Chris R. Kelsey. “Myeloablative conditioning with total body irradiation for AML: Balancing survival and pulmonary toxicity.” In Adv Radiat Oncol, 1:272–80, 2016.

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Green, Michael M. B., Nelson Chao, Saurabh Chhabra, Kelly Corbet, Cristina Gasparetto, Ari Horwitz, Zhiguo Li, et al. “Plerixafor (a CXCR4 antagonist) following myeloablative allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation enhances hematopoietic recovery.” J Hematol Oncol 9, no. 1 (August 17, 2016): 71.

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Wild, Daniel, Anthony D. Sung, Diana Cardona, Constance Cirricione, Keith Sullivan, Claire Detweiler, Michael Shealy, et al. “The Diagnostic Yield of Site and Symptom-Based Biopsies for Acute Gastrointestinal Graft-Versus-Host Disease: A 5-Year Retrospective Review.” Dig Dis Sci 61, no. 3 (March 2016): 806–13.

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Allewelt, Heather, Paul L. Martin, Paul Szabolcs, Nelson Chao, Rebecca Buckley, and Suhag Parikh. “Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation for CD40 Ligand Deficiency: Single Institution Experience.” Pediatr Blood Cancer 62, no. 12 (December 2015): 2216–22.

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