Joanne Kurtzberg, MD



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Professor of Pediatrics
Professor of Pathology
Chief Scientific Officer, Robertson Clinical and Translational Cell Therapy Program
Co-Director, Stem Cell Laboratory
Director, Carolinas Cord Blood Bank
Department / Division:
Pediatrics / Pediatric-Blood & Marrow Transplantation
DUMC 3350
Durham, NC 27710
Appointment Telephone:
Office Telephone:
  • MD, New York Medical College, 1976
  • Pediatrics, Upstate Medical Center, Syracuse (New York), 1977-1979
  • Pediatric Hematology-Oncology, Upstate Medical Center (New York), 1979-1980
  • Pediatric Hematology-Oncology, Duke University Medical Center, 1980-1983
Clinical Interests:
Umbilical cord-blood transplantation; nucleoside therapy; T-cell ALL; asparaginase; ITP; aplastic anemia; BM and UCB transplantation; growth-factor therapy; hematopoiesis; transplantation therapy for inborn errors of metabolism, immunodeficiency syndromes, congenital marrow-failure syndromes, and hemoglobinopathies; cell therapy for acquired and genetic brain injuries
Research Interests:
Dr. Kurtzberg conducts both clinical and laboratory-based translational research efforts, all involving various aspects of normal and malignant hematopoiesis. In the laboratory, her early work focused on studies determining the mechanisms that regulate the choice between the various pathways of differentiation available to the pluripotent hematopoietic stem cell. Her laboratory established a CD7+ cell line, DU.528, capable of multilineage differentiation as well as self-renewal, and subsequently described the aggressive leukemic syndrome of CD7+ALL and demonstrated that a normal counterpart of the CD7+, TN malignant cell can be isolated from postnatal human thymus, bone marrow, umbilical cord blood and G-CSF mobilized peripheral blood progenitor cells. The leukemic CD7+ cell has been established in model systems nude and SCID mice where direct IL2-cytotoxicity has been demonstrated. The mechanism of IL2-induced cytotoxicity is currently a major focus of work in the laboratory. One focus of Dr. Kurtzberg's translational research is the use of novel deoxynucleosides to purge normal and malignant T-cells from human bone marrow. She has also played an important role in the development of PEG-L Asparaginase and Nelarabine, two novel antileukemia drugs that are now used routinely in the clinic. Dr. Kurtzberg is active in the Children's Oncology Group and coordinated the ALinC 16 high risk study for children with newly diagnosed B-lineage acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) as well as relapsed studies for children with T- and B-lineage ALL. Under Dr. Kurtzberg's leadership, Duke has established an internationally known children's transplant program which currently treats children with cancer, blood disorders, immune deficiencies, hemoglobinopathies and inherited metabolic diseases. Over the past 2 years, the cord blood transplant program at Duke has initiated studies of autologous cord blood in children with neonatal brain injury and cerebral palsy. Dr. Kurtzberg’s laboratory is also pursuing preclinical studies isolating oligodendrocytes from cord blood with the goal of using these cells for cell therapy to treat acquired agenetic brain injuries in the next few years. Over the past 2 decades, Dr. Kurtzberg pioneered and is investigating the use of banked umbilical cord blood as an alternative stem cell source for unrelated marrow transplantation. She was awarded with a banking and transplant center contract from NHLBI for 1996-2005, to establish the Carolinas Cord Blood Bank (CCBB)at Duke and was the PI on the cord blood transplantation study (COBLT) in children with hematological malignancies and inborn errors of metabolism. In 2006, the CCBB was awarded a contract from HRSA to become a member bank of the National Cord Blood Inventory (NCBI) of the CW Bill Young Cell Transplantation Program after legislation was passed in 2005 to establish this network. Dr. Kurtzberg is also the Duke PI for the NIH-sponsored, Blood and Marrow Transplant Clinical Trials Network (BMT-CTN) and the PI on a national trial comparing single and double cord blood transplantation in children with hematological malignancies. In 2008-2009, Dr. Kurtzberg’s lab pioneered studies to predict cord blood potency through novel assays on segments attached to cryopreserved cord blood units. The program is also performing translational research testing cord blood expansion, cellular targeted therapies and tissue repair and regeneration.
Representative Publications:
  • Laughlin, MJ; Barker, J; Bambach, B; Koc, ON; Rizzieri, DA; Wagner, JE; Gerson, SL; Lazarus, HM; Cairo, M; Stevens, CE; Rubinstein, P; Kurtzberg, J. Hematopoietic engraftment and survival in adult recipients of umbilical-cord blood from unrelated donors. The New England journal of medicine. 2001;344:1815-1822.  Abstract
  • Kurtzberg, J; Laughlin, M; Graham, ML; Smith, C; Olson, JF; Halperin, EC; Ciocci, G; Carrier, C; Stevens, CE; Rubinstein, P. Placental blood as a source of hematopoietic stem cells for transplantation into unrelated recipients. The New England journal of medicine. 1996;335:157-166.  Abstract
  • Kurtzberg, J; Denning, SM; Nycum, LM; Singer, KH; Haynes, BF. Immature human thymocytes can be driven to differentiate into nonlymphoid lineages by cytokines from thymic epithelial cells. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of USA. 1989;86:7575-7579.  Abstract
  • Kurtzberg, J; Waldmann, TA; Davey, MP; Bigner, SH; Moore, JO; Hershfield, MS; Haynes, BF. CD7+, CD4-, CD8- acute leukemia: a syndrome of malignant pluripotent lymphohematopoietic cells. Blood. 1989;73:381-390.  Abstract