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Roisin Maritxell Connolly, M.B.B.S.

Photo of Dr. Roisin Maritxell Connolly, M.B.B.S.

Assistant Professor of Oncology

Female

Languages: English, French, German, Irish

Expertise: Breast Cancer, Clinical Trials, Medical Oncology

Research Interests: Breast Cancer; Epigenetics; Immunotherapy; Clinical Trials

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Locations

The Johns Hopkins Hospital
Appointment Phone: 410-955-8964

600 N. Wolfe Street
Sheikh Zayed Tower
Baltimore, MD 21287 map
Phone: 410-614-4192

Background

Roisin Maritxell Connolly is a long way from her native Ireland. The primary driving force that landed her here? The opportunity to engage in meaningful research, which she began during her fellowship training at Johns Hopkins and continues today as a physician-scientist.

Dr. Connolly notices that in the U.S., patients—many of whom are well-educated about the availability of clinical trials and research—take a proactive approach to their disease. “Patients come here [Johns Hopkins] seeking out excellent medical care and the opportunity to participate in clinical trials. They understand that the oncologists they see here are experts in their field, both nationally and internationally,” she says. Dr. Connolly is fast establishing herself as one of these experts.

The overarching goals of her research include improving outcomes for breast cancer patients, both those with early stage and metastatic disease. Like other researchers at Hopkins, Dr. Connolly is examining ways to identify biomarkers in blood or tissue samples to predict patients’ response to treatment. The ultimate goal is to tailor treatment to the individual.

“We’re trying to develop treatments that are different from the norm,” she says.

Dr. Connolly is about to embark on an exciting study whose results may enable some breast cancer patients to eliminate chemotherapy from their treatment regimen, thereby avoiding the uncomfortable side effects associated with it. 

The standard treatment for patients with HER2-positive breast cancer is to receive chemotherapy and anti-HER2 therapy (trastuzumab) after undergoing surgery to remove their tumor. It is evident, however, that a subgroup of these patients may benefit from anti-HER2 therapy alone—a relatively non-toxic approach—and may not need chemotherapy at all.

For 12 weeks prior to undergoing surgery, Dr. Connolly and her collaborators will administer to patients with HER2-positive breast cancer a novel anti-HER2 agent, pertuzumab, in addition to trastuzumab. They hope to identify biomarkers that will predict response to the combination. The long-term goal? To determine if a subgroup of patients can be treated with this therapeutic combination in the absence of chemotherapy.

“Our hope is that the results from this trial may determine who will not need chemotherapy,” Dr. Connolly says.

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Titles

  • Assistant Professor of Oncology

Departments / Divisions

Education

Degrees

  • MBBS, University of Dublin Trinity College (2001)

Residencies

  • Royal Perth Hospital (2003)
  • Royal College of Physicians Ireland / Internal Medicine (2005)

Fellowships

  • Royal College of Physicians Ireland / Medical Oncology (2008)
  • Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine / Oncology (2011)

Board Certifications

  • Pending/Scheduled / Oncology

Research & Publications

Selected Publications

Connolly RM, Rudek MA, Garrett-Mayer E, Jeter SC, Donehower MG, Wright LA, Zhao M, Fetting JH, Emens LA, Stearns V, Davidson NE, Baker SD, Wolff AC. Docetaxel Metabolism is not Altered by Imatinib: Findings from an Early Phase Study in Metastatic Breast Cancer. Breast Cancer Research and Treatment 2011, May; 127 (1): 153-62. (PMID 21350820)

Rudek MA*, Connolly RM*, Hoskins JM, Garrett-Mayer E, Jeter SC, Armstrong DK, Fetting JH, Stearns V, Wright LA, Zhao M, Watkins SP, McLeod HL, Davidson NE, Wolff AC. Fixed Dose Capecitabine is Feasible: Results from a Pharmacokinetic and Pharmacogenetic Study in Metastatic Breast Cancer. Breast Cancer Research and Treatment 2013. May;139(1):135-43 (PMID 23588952) *Co-first authors

Li H, Chiappinelli KB, Guzzetta AA, Easwaran H, Yen RW, Vatapalli R, Topper MJ, Luo J, Connolly RM, Azad NS, Stearns V, Pardoll DM, Davidson N, Jones PA, Slamon DJ, Baylin SB, Zahnow CA, Ahuja N. Immune regulation by low doses of the DNA methyltransferase inhibitor 5-azacitidine in common human epithelial cancers. Oncotarget. 2014 Feb 15;5(3):587-98.(PMID 24583822)

Connolly RM, Leal JP, Goetz MP, Zhang Z, Zhou XC, Jacobs LK, Mhlanga J, O JH, Carpenter J, Storniolo AM, Watkins S, Fetting J, Miller R, Sideras K, Jeter SC, Walsh B, Powers P, Zorzi J, Boughey J, Davidson NE, Carey LA, Wolff AC, Khouri N, Gabrielson E, Wahl RL, Stearns V. TBCRC 008: Randomized Phase II Study Evaluating Response and Treatment-Selection Biomarkers to Preoperative Carboplatin and Nanoparticle Albumin-bound Paclitaxel with or without Vorinostat in HER2-negative Primary Operable Breast Cancer. Journal of Nuclear Medicine 2015; 56(1):31-7 (PMID: 25476537)

Freedman RA, Gelman RS, Wefel JS, Krop IE, Melisko ME, Lowe A, Agar NYR, Blackwell KL, Connolly RM, Niravath PA, Van Poznak CH, Puhalla SL, Ryabin N, Lawler E, Ibrahim N, Liu M, Wolff AC, Winer EP, Lin N. TBCRC 022: Phase II Trial of Neratinib for Patients with Human Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor 2 (HER2)-Positive Breast cancer and Brain Metastases. JCO 2016 Feb 1 (Epub ahead of print)

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