Office Hours with… Maryam Lustberg

As director of the Breast Center at Smilow Cancer Hospital, Maryam Lustberg studies how to improve the quality of life of breast cancer patients.
Maryam Lustberg.

Maryam Lustberg

As director of the Breast Center at Smilow Cancer Hospital, Maryam Lustberg studies how to improve the quality of life of breast cancer patients. At home, she likes hanging out with her eight-year-old son. And at all times, she’s a big fan of coffee and sweets.

We caught up with her for the latest edition of Office Hours, a Q&A series that introduces newcomers to the Yale faculty to the broader university community.

Title Associate professor of internal medicine (medical oncology); director, Breast Center at Smilow Cancer Hospital; chief, breast medical oncology at Yale Cancer Center
Research interest Understanding and better managing the side effects and toxicities of breast cancer treatment
Prior institution The Ohio State University
Started at Yale July 1, 2021

How would you describe your research to someone not in the medical field?

Maryam Lustberg: I focus on patients living with breast cancer, as well as their family members and caregivers, and I try to understand ways that we can help them tolerate their cancer treatments better. So, understanding their side effects and toxicities and whether we can be proactive in terms of preventing these toxicities or reducing the risk of these toxicities, or if they develop side effects, how can we better manage them.

The benefit is really two-fold. One is that if they can tolerate their treatments better, then their quality of life is better. And secondarily, if they're able to stay on treatment longer and not have adverse reactions, then that actually helps their cancer outcomes as well.

What got you into this particular area of cancer research?

Lustberg: As I started my clinical practice and fellowship, I was introduced to the field of cancer survivorship. Management of toxicities is a big part of that. And I really saw that there was a lot of unmet need, that it wasn't enough to select the best cancer treatment for our patients. We really had an obligation to also ensure that they were tolerating things in the best way.

Also, when treatment ends for some patients with early-stage breast cancer, they go on to live decades and decades after their original diagnosis. Some of them continue to have side effects from that initial treatment. So, it seemed that there was a huge opportunity for impact and to really help improve quality of life.

How was your move from Ohio?

Lustberg: So, moving and interviewing during COVID is an interesting experience for sure. We bought a house without seeing it, and pictures always look a little different, but we're happy with it! We’re in Madison, Connecticut, near the water, and I love that. Love the small town feel and it's not too far from New Haven. Obviously, every transition can be a challenge, but we’re slowly adjusting and setting up our new life here.

You’ve mentioned you’re looking forward to traveling in the coming years. What’s on your travel list?

Lustberg: There are so many beautiful places in the U.S. I think when I was younger, I always prioritized traveling more outside the U.S. But COVID made me see, gosh, there are so many wondrous places we can go to. We’ve been to Arizona, but we'd like to explore the Sedona region a little bit more, lots of beautiful places in California, and some of the national parks. As I've gotten older, I’m just amazed at the breathtaking national parks, so I definitely want to spend more time and get to know those. The Grand Canyon, Arches National Park in Utah, Yellowstone — I hope to do those in the coming years.

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