Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
Research

Faculty Profile: Maha Hussain, MD, FACP, FASCO, Senior Deputy Director of the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University

Through her clinical research and leadership roles,Maha Hussain, MD, FACP, FASCO, Genevieve E. Teuton Professor of Medicine in the Division of Hematology/Oncology, is dedicated to developing novel therapeutics and improving standards of care for patients with cancer.

Hussain, who joined Northwestern Medicine in September 2016, is the senior deputy director of the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center, as well as the center’s associate director for clinical research, where she oversees all cancer-related clinical trials. She is also an active physician and investigator, with research focused on integrating scientific advances into clinical trials for prostate and bladder cancer.

Q&A

What are your research interests?
I am a medical oncologist with a focus in genitourinary malignancies, particularly prostate and bladder cancers. My research centers on novel therapeutic interventions and the design, conduct and leadership of clinical trials, including federally-sponsored, multicenter, investigator-initiated clinical trials. 

In my clinical research, I’m particularly focused on the integration of biomarkers into clinical trials, to maximize the chances for therapeutic benefits.

What is the ultimate goal of your research?
My main goals are to change the standards of care and improve the quality and quantity of life for patients. For example, I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to impact the standards of care for patients with metastatic hormone-sensitive and castration-resistant prostate cancer. 

How did you become interested in this area of research?
The major factor in my decision to become an oncologist, as well as a clinical investigator with a focus on genitourinary oncology, was my experience in caring for patients with cancer and interactions with clinical investigators during my training at Wayne State University. 

While working at the VA hospital, I met many patients with advanced cancers, including prostate cancer, and at the time there was not much to offer them. I had firsthand experience with what patients and their families had to go through — from the emotional and physical aspects of the diagnosis, to treatment and downstream effects. With rapidly expanding science and discovery, there were great opportunities to impact patients’ outcomes. 

I am, first and foremost, a physician; the opportunity to care for patients with cancer and their families throughout the course of the disease, and to contribute to the development of impactful therapies, are things I very much value and am committed to.

What types of collaborations are you engaged in across campus (and beyond)?
I have clinical research collaborations with faculty investigators at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center and several other academic institutions across the country that are focused on therapeutic clinical trials in prostate and bladder cancers. I continue to partner with translational, basic scientists and other clinical investigators both institutionally and nationally to better inform the clinical research that I conduct.  

In my lifetime, there has been tremendous progress in prostate cancer, and that progress happened because of partnerships between basic scientists and clinical investigators.

Where have you recently published papers?
I have published my research in the journal Cell, the New England Journal of Medicine, Journal of Clinical Oncology, Lancet Oncology, JAMA Oncology, Cancer, Journal of the National Cancer Institute, and PLoS One, among others.

Which honors are you most proud of and why?
Throughout my career, I have been honored to receive several awards. But perhaps the three most recent awards are the ones of which I feel especially proud. I was named the “2015 Giant of Cancer Care in Genitourinary Cancer” by OncLive, and received the “2016 Faculty Mentor of the Year” in the Hematology/Oncology Fellowship Program when I was at the University of Michigan. The third honor was being elected to be a member of the Board of Directors of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. 

All these awards reflect my mission to impact care and outcomes for cancer patients, through outstanding medicine, research, advocacy, and mentorship and training of the next generation of medical oncologists.