In Memoriam: S. Perwez Hussain, Ph.D. (1960 - 2023)

S. Perwez Hussain, Ph.D.

S. Perwez Hussain, Ph.D.

The CCR community is profoundly saddened by the passing of S. Perwez Hussain, Ph.D., Senior Investigator in the Laboratory of Human Carcinogenesis. He died on November 24, 2023, after living with stage 4 colon cancer for many years.

For over 25 years, Perwez led translational research that could be brought into clinical trials for patients with pancreatic cancer and he established the pancreatic cancer research program in the Laboratory of Human Carcinogenesis at CCR. He was known as an exceptional scientist, caring mentor, kind colleague and friend to many.

After earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in zoology, Perwez pivoted his career towards cancer research when he earned his doctoral degree in cancer biology from Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, India. He trained at the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg, Germany, and the Swiss Institute for Experimental Cancer Research in Lausanne, Switzerland, before joining the NCI in 1994.

During his postdoctoral training with Curtis C. Harris, M.D., in the Laboratory of Human Carcinogenesis, Perwez gained extensive experience in translational research, extending molecular findings in the lab into pre-clinical models to understand underlying mechanisms and identify potential therapeutics. He established a highly sensitive mutagenesis assay able to measure the p53 mutational burden in non-cancerous human tissues and significantly contributed to the field of inflammation and cancer using animal cancer models and patient-centered research. He was appointed as a tenure-track investigator in 2009, and as Head of the Pancreatic Cancer Unit, established important cohorts of biospecimens from pancreatic cancer patients with clinical epidemiological profiles. He was later tenured as a senior investigator in 2018.

Throughout his time at the NCI, Perwez initiated many collaborations, both within the NCI and with extramural scientists and clinicians, and he established the NCI-Pancreatic Cancer Interest Group. He was the founder and organizer of the biannual NCI Pancreatic Cancer Symposium as a forum for leaders in the field to present their newest research and engage in collaborations. He also served as a member of several international committees and editorial boards centered around pancreatic cancer research, including the American Association for Cancer Research, the American Pancreatic Association, and the Union for International Cancer Control Fellows. Perwez was also a dedicated mentor and role model for others, both in his lab and throughout CCR.

Besides his many research achievements, Perwez was known to many as a personal friend and somebody with a very warm heart. He frequently brought together people of diverse backgrounds and from all cultures, always engaging in conversation and helping with advice when needed. Many spoke of his infectious optimism, even during times of severe adversity.

Stefan Ambs, a longtime colleague of Perwez’s in the Laboratory of Human Carcinogenesis, says, “Perwez and I had lunch together with a daily trip to the coffee shop for more than twenty years where I always noticed his friendliness and how well-spoken he was, engaging into meaningful conversations with about anybody — scientists, trainees, staff with the cafeteria or the coffee shop, cleaning personnel, animal caretakers, or staff with delivery services. He treated everybody equally and was always very helpful to others. A true friend to all.”

Perwez is survived by his wife Zarina Hussain and his two daughters, Hena and Zainab.

Posted on Fri, 12/01/2023