September Physician of the Month: David O’Malley
From his work in the operating room and research lab to his partnerships with patients, David O’Malley embodies our commitment to comprehensive cancer care. Get to know the September Physician of the Month at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James).
Professional passion with a personal touch
Everything about medical school, residency and his fellowship fascinated David O’Malley, MD.
“I loved every area, every new rotation,” O’Malley says.
He eventually decided to focus on gynecologic oncology in order to perform surgery while also administering chemotherapy and other treatment options—a unique combination within the oncology world—as well as the opportunity to build relationships with patients and their family members for several years.
“We have the best patients in the world,” O’Malley says. “Women are so tough and determined and it is an absolute honor to take care of them.”
Another plus was the opportunity to take care of patients from underserved populations. “It’s so important to help patients who might not otherwise have adequate access to care,” O’Malley says. “And here at Ohio State, we’re committed to providing specialty care to all.”
“Dave is a fabulous physician,” says David Cohn, MD, director of the Division of Gynecologic Oncology and Chief Medical Officer. “He takes such great care of his patients, and he does so in a way that they revere him as a lifesaver, confidant and caregiver.”
A team player finds a perfect fit at The James
O’Malley grew up near Detroit, the first child of working-class parents who were teenagers when he was born (they later married). He attended Notre Dame, where he played goalie on the soccer team—sort of.
“I’m proud to say I lettered without ever having played in a regular season game,” he says with a smile.
Then it was on to medical school at Wayne State University and a fellowship at Yale University School of Medicine before arriving at the OSUCCC – James. The institution immediately fascinated O’Malley, who was recruited by several top cancer centers in 2005.
“I was overwhelmed by the collaborative environment here,” he says. “That was very different from the other institutions (I visited).”
Creating a cancer-free world
O’Malley still sees patients he encountered upon his arrival at the OSUCCC – James in 2005. Thanks to research breakthroughs, many of his patients are living longer and enjoying a better quality of life.
“When I first started, which isn’t that long ago, we were talking about a two-to-three-year survival rate for patients with ovarian cancer. Now, we’re talking about five and 10 years,” he says.
To build on that success, O’Malley is on the leadership committee for clinical trials for the GOG (Gynecologic Oncology Group) Foundation, a national consortium comprising leading doctors from top cancer centers. In this role, he’s involved in a number of national clinical trials, one of which involves mirvetuximab, a new type of drug called an antibody drug conjugate.
“Think of this new drug as a torpedo—a smart bomb,” O’Malley explains, adding that it can identify and latch on to a protein expressed on around 60 to 80 percent of all ovarian cancer tumors and “release its payload directly into the cancer cells and kill [those cells].”
O’Malley is the lead investigator for a trial that is utilizing mirvetuximab combined with other FDA-approved drugs. “The early results indicate the combination seems to be additive in terms of the effectiveness of the treatment with a better side effect profile,” he says.
Being on the cutting edge of new treatments that are improving the outcomes for his patients “is such an honor,” O’Malley says. “These new therapies allow us to offer treatments to patients that are helping them live longer and curing them where we never had that chance before.”
O’Malley’s wife, Kerri, is a nurse who specializes in labor and delivery. She currently takes care of their five children: Caitlin, Erinn, Karah, Evalyn and Sean.
Taking care of family is vital to O’Malley—and by family, he means his five children and his many patients.
“What I tell my trainees all the time is, if you treat people how you would want your family and friends to be treated, you’ll never go wrong. You really establish that family dynamic, especially in gynecologic cancers, because you see some patients week after week, or every few months, for years and years.”