Physician’s Profile

Top Doctor: 

Owen O'Connor, MD, PhD

Department of Medicine
Division of Hematology/Oncology

Dr. O'Connor is a Professor of Medicine and Experimental Therapeutics, and the Director of the Center for Lymphoid Malignancies, and Co-Program Director of the Lymphoid Development and Malignancy Program in the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center at Columbia University Medical Center.

Dr. O'Connor attained his PhD in Biochemistry and Toxicology from the New York University School of Medicine. Following his Ph.D. training he completed a post-doctoral research fellowship in Chemical Engineering. He then went on to attain his MD from The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, followed then by a residency in Internal Medicine at the NewYork Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center. Following his residency, he went on to perform his Fellowship in Medical Oncology at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC), where he was Chief Fellow, and a Fellowship in Clinical Pharmacology at NewYork-Presbyterian HospitalWeill Cornell. In 2000, Dr. O'Connor was appointed to the faculty at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, where he was the Head of the Laboratory of Experimental Therapeutics for the Lymphoproliferative Malignancies.

After nearly a decade at MSKCC, Dr. O'Connor assumed a number of leadership positions at prestigious institutions in New York City, including being appointed Chief of the Lymphoma Service, and Co-Director of the Program for Lymphoid Biology and Development at the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center; and Chief of the Division of Hematology and Oncology, and Deputy Cancer Center Director at the New York University Medical Center. Most recently, Dr. O'Connor has accepted a position to create a new Center devoted to the Lymphoid Malignancies at Columbia University. In early 2012 he was appointed Professor of Medicine and Experimental Therapeutics, and Director of the newly formed Center for Lymphoid Malignancies at the NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center.

Over the past two decades, Dr. O'Connor has become an international authority on the management of Hodgkin Lymphoma and non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, as well as the development of novel drugs for the treatment of these diseases. To date, he has pioneered the development of three new drugs approved for the treatment of lymphoma, and collaborated with national and international colleagues on many others. Working in collaboration with the National Cancer Institute (NCI), he was the first to identify the activity of bortezomib (Velcade), a novel class of drugs targeting the proteasome, in patients with relapsed or refractory mantle cell lymphoma, which eventually led to bortezomib becoming the first drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for this disease in 2006. He has since developed new treatment regimens integrating bortezomib into the treatment of lymphoma, and conducted the first in human studies of second generation proteasome inhibitors, like carfilzomib. In collaboration with investigators at MSKCC, he conducted the first in human studies of vorinostat, which became the first histone deacetylase inhibitor ever approved for the treatment of cancer in 2005. Vorinostat (Zolinza) was approved in 2005 for the treatment of patients with cutaneous T-cell lymphoma.

More recently, he both co-invented and developed pralatrexate (Folytn), which became the first drug ever approved for patients with relapsed or refractory peripheral T-cell lymphoma by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2009. Pralatrexate has now been approved for patients in many countries around the world, including Asia. Because of his efforts in developing 2 new drugs approved in T-Cell lymphoma, the Center has developed a unique expertise in treating those rare and complicated diseases, caring for one of the largest populations of T-Cell lymphoma patients in the country. In addition to these drugs, he has recently filed a number of new patents with colleagues at Columbia University on an exciting new class of drugs that target 'master regulators' of cancer cell behavior, which includes NF-kB.& These agents appear active against many cancers including lymphoma, breast cancer and prostate cancer.

Presently, Dr. O'Connor is now leading several international studies, many of which are the largest studies ever conducted in various sub-types of lymphoma. His focus is to develop safer drugs that selectively target the unique biology of the cancer cell, all in an effort to minimize the toxic effects of existing chemotherapy treatments. In addition to his efforts in clinical research, Dr. O'Connor runs a laboratory focused on the discovery and development of new drugs for the treatment of lymphoma. His laboratory has developed novel mouse models to accelerate the translation of new discoveries from the laboratory to the clinic. He is widely recognized as an international authority on how to translate novel scientific concepts into patient care.

Dr. O'Connor has published over 200 articles, book chapters and reviews on the management of lymphoma, and has been recognized for his achievements in pioneering new treatments for patients with lymphoid malignances. He is presently a Senior Editor for Clinical Cancer Research, and Editor in Chief of the journal Lymphoma, Myeloma and Leukemia, and serves as a reviewer for every major journal in the field. He is a member of several important advisory boards, serving on the Scientific Advisory Board for the Lymphoma Research Foundation; is President of the Alese Coco Fight to Win Foundation, focused on helping patients with Hodgkin Lymphoma; is a member of the National Cancer Institute Committee (NCI) on Peripheral T-Cell Lymphoma; and is a member of the Lymphoma Committee in the Southwestern Oncology Group (SWOG).

In addition, he has been the recipient of numerous awards including: The Ellen B. Glapsy Award from the Lymphoma Research Foundation; the Collaborator Award from the American Cancer Foundation; The William Guy Forbeck Scholar Award; and a Research Scholar Award from the Leukemia Lymphoma Society. Recently he was recognized by the Irish Government as one of the 'Top 50 Irish Americans in Science and Medicine' in the US, and was honored by being appointed to the Museum of Irish American History in Washington D.C. Dr. O'Connor is also recognized by US News & World Reports, which recognizes physicians rated as in the top 1% of professionals in the field by their peers.

Board Certificates
Medical Oncology
Internal Medicine
Areas of Expertise:
  • Lymphoma
  • Cancer Care
  • Hematology
  • Hematologic Abnormality
  • Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia
  • Hematologic Malignancy
  • Hodgkin's Disease
  • Leukemia
  • Multiple Myeloma
  • Non Hodgkin's Lymphoma
  • Myeloma

O’Connor, O.A., B. Pro, L. Pinter-Brown, N. Bartlett, L. Popplewell, B. Coiffier, M. Lechowicz, K. Savage, A. Shustov, C. Gisselbrecht, E. Jacobsen, P. Zinzani, R. Furman, A. Goy, C. Haioun, R. Crump, J. Zain, E. Hsi, A. Boyd, S.Horwitz. 2011. Pralatrexate in Patients with Relapsed or Refractory Peripheral T-Cell Lymphoma (PTCL): Results From the Pivotal PROPEL Study. J Clin Oncol. 29(9): 1182-1189, Jan 18 [Epub ahead of print].

O’Connor, O.A., A. Stewart, M. Vallone, C. Molineaux, L. Kunkel, J. Gericitano and R.Orlowski. 2009. A Phase I Dose Escalation Study of the Safety and Pharmacokinetics of the Proteasome Inhibitor Carfilzomib (PR-171) in Patients with Hematological Malignancies. Clinical Cancer Research, 15(22):7085-91. E-pub ahead of print, Nov 10.

Kalac, M., V. Seshan, G. Bhagat, L. Scotto, E. Marchi, Amengual J,  N. Ulahannan, V. Leshchenko, Temkin AM, S. Parekh, Tycko B and O.A. O’Connor.  2011. HDAC Inhibitors and Decitabine Are Highly Synergistic and Associated with Unique Gene Expression and Epigenetic Profiles in Models of DLBCL.Blood. 118(20): 5506-5516. [E-pub ahead of print].

Scotto, L., M. de Julio, L. Paoluzzi, M. Kalac, E. Marchi, J. Baquero Buitrago and O. A. O’Connor. 2012. Generation and Characterization of a Novel CD19-CherryLuciferase (CD19CL) Mouse Model: A New Fluorescent/Bioluminescent Model for the Study of B-Cell Development and Lymphomagenesis. Clinical Cancer Research 18(14):3803-3811.

O’Connor, O.A., E. Marchi, G. Bhagat, P. Corradini, T. Kuzel, J. Guiart, and S. Rosen. 2012.T-cell Lymphomas. In, Hoffman, R (Editor), Chapter 84, Hematologic Malignancies. In Press.

O’Connor, O. A. 2010. Novel Agents in Development for Peripheral T-Cell Lymphoma. Seminars in Hematology, April, Vol. 47, No2, Supplement 1:S11-14.