Kitko to lead Pediatric Stem Cell Transplant Program
July 16, 2015 | Christina Echegaray
Carrie Kitko, M.D., has joined Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt as associate professor of Pediatrics and director of the Pediatric Stem Cell Transplant Program in the Division of Hematology/Oncology.
“We are thrilled to have Dr. Kitko join our faculty and lead our stem cell transplant program,” said Debra Friedman, M.D., director of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, associate professor of Pediatrics and E. Bronson Ingram Professor of Pediatric Oncology.Kitko was previously assistant professor of the Blood and Marrow Transplantation Program in the Department of Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases at the University of Michigan School of Medicine.
“She is a wonderful, experienced clinician who will provide state-of-the-art, compassionate care to our patients and families. She will bring new and innovative treatments and clinical trials, many of which will be unique in our region. Furthermore, she is an internationally recognized expert in graft-versus-host disease (GVHD).”
Kitko started seeing patients June 15.
“I look forward to building a new chapter in Vanderbilt’s Pediatric Stem Cell Program, where we focus on improving outcomes for pediatric patients undergoing transplant,” Kitko said. On her reasons for taking this new position, Kitko stated, “It is a wonderful opportunity for me to lead the program. Vanderbilt is an outstanding place to work, where people from multiple disciplines come together and find new ways of studying patients’ disease processes, finding new treatments and there is a community of like-minded physicians.”
Kitko earned her Bachelor of Science degree at Denison University in Granville, Ohio, and then her medical degree at Ohio State University. She was a resident and chief resident at Duke University Medical Center and then went on to fellowship at University of Michigan Medical Center, where she was recruited to faculty.
While at University of Michigan, her research focused on understanding (GVHD), a potential serious complication of a stem cell or bone marrow transplant in which the newly transplanted donor cells attack the body of the transplant recipient. Kitko will continue her research at Vanderbilt and plans to start a clinic focused on GVHD treatment.
In her research, she studies biomarkers, or proteins in patients’ blood, that can help determine which post-transplant patients are most likely to develop GVHD. She also looks at extracorporeal photopheresis for treatment and prevention of both acute and chronic GVHD.
During a photopheresis treatment, the patient is connected to the photopheresis machine and their white blood cells are collected. Within the machine, the collected cells are treated with medicine that is “activated” (turned on) by brief exposure to ultraviolet-A (UVA) light. The treated blood cells are then returned to the patient.
Kitko will be the primary investigator on a national multi-center clinical trial investigating extracorporeal photopheresis for the treatment of pediatric acute GVHD and plans to have the study open for patients at Vanderbilt.
Kitko comes to Nashville with her husband, Matthew Leavitt, M.D., who is joining a local nephrology practice, their 9-year-old son, Gabriel, and the family golden retriever, Rex.