John O'Connell, M.D.
Clinical Assistant Professor
Clemson University School of Health Research
Prisma Health Cancer Institute
Who is Dr. O'Connell?John Joseph O’Connell is a radiation oncologist with the Prisma Health Cancer Institute. He served twenty-one years as a physician in the U.S. Army. While serving the nation, he was awarded the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Senior Parachutist Badge and the Zimbabwe Parachutist Badge. He is a distinguished graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, NY, and earned his medical degree from Georgetown University. For six years, he was Program Director for the National Capital Consortium’s Radiation Oncology Residency Program in Bethesda, MD. He was lead investigator for ten years on a University of Pennsylvania subaward for research in proton therapy. In 2013, he was an organizing committee member for a “Workshop on Ion Beam Therapy” sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Cancer Institute.His clinical and research interests are to improve the effectiveness of radiation treatments while reducing side effects. He is collaborating with Brian Booth, Ph.D., in the Clemson University Department of Bioengineering, to investigate the sequencing of oscillating electric fields with fractionated radiation treatments to increase lethality to breast cancer cells without increasing damage to normal tissues. He is the Clerkship Director in Radiation Oncology for 4th year medical students at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville where he was appointed a clinical assistant professor. He is an active member of the American Society for Radiation Oncology and a member of the Catholic Medical Association.
For more information, see his Curriculum Vitae.
How Dr. O'Connell’s research is transforming health care
The research Dr. Booth and Dr. O’Connell are collaborating on aims to produce a device and strategy capable of replacing current palliative systemic regimens with a sequence of treatments that are far more effective and less toxic for patients with breast cancer that has widely metastasized to major organ systems such as the brain, lung and liver. Their approach moves beyond a minor advancement by turning asunder the current paradigm in treating patients with metastatic breast cancer. They have developed a device capable of delivering oscillating electric fields (OEF) with far greater lethality to breast cancer cell cultures in the laboratory. Commercial devices available today to deliver OEF in the laboratory are limited by artificially low electric field strengths, the inability to modulate in real-time the amplitude or frequency of the electric field strengths. By sequencing OEF with ionizing radiation (IR) and the depletion of intracellular triiodothyronine at the time of maximal kinetic damage, the likelihood exists of delivering significantly lower doses of IR to whole organs, e.g., brain, liver and lung, in order to eradicate gross and micro-metastatic deposits of metastatic breast cancer with far less toxicity. They are continuing to investigate these strategies in laboratory experiments with the goal of obtaining funding to be able to modify their device for testing in large animal models.
Key Health Research Interest Areas
Breast cancer, radiation oncology, Ionzing radiation, Oscillating electric fields, Cancer cell signaling, Warburg metabolism, Thyroid hormone signaling