Treatment for lung and thoracic cancers at Mass General

Lung Cancer Treatment Program

The Center for Thoracic Cancers offers patients and families access to one of New England's most experienced programs for lung cancer.
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Talk to an access nurse today 877-789-6100


The Center for Thoracic Cancers offers a collaborative, caring approach to the diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer patients. Consistently ranked as one of the best in the country by U.S. News & World Report, we provide the latest, most effective treatments including many innovative approaches to clinical care and promising new therapies, including:

  • Expertise in minimally invasive surgery for lung cancer, including lung-sparing techniques
  • Genotyping (also called "molecular fingerprinting") to determine which primary lung adenocarcinomas carry genetic mutations that might be treated with targeted therapies
  • Rapid diagnosis and staging of all biopsied tumors by pathologists who sub-specialize in lung cancer
  • Bench-to-bedside medicine, bringing the most promising research to clinical care. We were among the first in the nation to provide the new targeted smart drugs for non-small cell lung cancer
  • Groundbreaking research regarding the molecular basis of some lung cancers
  • The Francis Burr Northeast Proton Therapy Center, New England’s only proton radiation facility
  • Access to one of New England’s only Advanced Endoscopy Services

Expertise in Diagnosing and Staging Lung Cancer

Our thoracic cancer pathologists are internationally recognized and consulted on the diagnosis of lung cancer. They participate in weekly tumor board meetings, sharing information about each patient’s unique cancer with the entire treatment team to help guide care planning.

All members of our team of diagnostic radiologists are nationally recognized for their expertise. They use the most advanced imaging tools to diagnose and stage thoracic cancers and to detect changes in tumors. Our imaging methods include:

  • Chest radiograph
  • Computed tomography scan (CT or CAT scan)
  • MRI
  • PET and nuclear medicine scans

Our minimally invasive image-guided procedures for diagnosis include:

  • Percutaneous needle biopsy and molecular diagnostic tests
  • Esophageal ultrasound
  • Navigation bronchoscopy for biopsy of peripheral lung nodules

Advancing Medical Oncology

For many patients diagnosed with lung cancer, administering chemotherapy drugs may be the most effective treatment. Some new cancer drugs that are currently available or in development are designed to block some of the mutations and pathways that cause tumor cells to proliferate. By targeting tumor gene mutations with these “smart drugs”, our doctors are beginning to understand how to eradicate malignant cells in some patients' tumors without traditional chemotherapy and radiation.

Genotyping: Entering a New Era Treating Lung Cancer Care

We are among a select few health care institutions in the world to offer comprehensive genotyping of thoracic cancers as a routine component of our pathological assessment. This genotyping allows us to test each tumor for certain genetic mutations . These genetic markers indicate certain weaknesses in an individual’s cancer; weaknesses that we can exploit using targeted therapies. By understanding the genetics behind each lung tumor we are able to choose the specific type of treatment that will be most effective for that particular patient’s cancer. Learn more about genotyping for primary lung adenocarcinomas.


Excellence in Surgical Care

Our team of dedicated surgeons receives referrals from around New England and the U.S., treating some of the most challenging and complex cases. Our surgeons focus only on thoracic surgery and have pioneered many of now-standard procedures used to treat thoracic cancers. The team provides state-of-the-art evaluation, treatment and post-surgical services, including:

  • Chest and airway reconstruction
  • Laser surgery
  • Minimally invasive video-assisted thorascopic surgery
  • Resection of tumors in the chest wall, lungs and mediastinum
  • Lung-sparing techniques for benign and malignant neoplasms of the lung
  • Resection of tumors obstructing a bronchus or in the trachea

We also offer a number of minimally invasive surgical procedures to aid in treating thoracic malignancies, such as:

  • Bronchoscopy to explore the bronchial passages
  • Navigation bronchoscopy to biopsy peripheral lung nodules or placement of radiosurgical markers to enhance tracking of the lung tumors during radiation treatment
  • Esophagoscopy to sample lymph nodes around the airway or lung
  • Mediastinoscopy to explore the area between the lungs and nearby lymph nodes
  • Thoracoscopy to explore the thorax
  • Esophageal endoscopic ultrasound
  • Endobronchial ultrasound

Pioneering Radiation Therapies

Our radiation oncologists use the most advanced therapies to treat lung cancer, many of which are available at only a few select hospitals. Radiation therapy may be given alone, or in combination with surgery and chemotherapy. Depending on the nature of a patient’s cancer, our team may suggest:

  • External radiation (external beam therapy): a treatment that precisely sends high levels of radiation directly to the cancer cells using high energy therapy machines
  • Internal radiation (brachytherapy, implant radiation): radiation is given inside the body as close to the cancer as possible using radioactive sources 
  • Proton beam radiation: We are conducting clinical trials to compare proton beam therapy with photon beams for clinical results in patients with inoperable stage II and III non-small cell lung cancer

All patients at the Center for Thoracic Cancers scheduled for radiation therapy will undergo a 4-D CT scan for pre-treatment planning. The fourth dimension, time, refers to the movement a tumor might have due to the patient’s breathing. If planning reveals that a tumor is likely to move significantly during treatment, our radiation oncologists may use respiratory gating – a technique designed to deliver radiation only when the tumor is in the exhale phase of breathing to help spare healthy surrounding tissue.

Learn more about radiation therapy. 


Meet the Team

Our team approach ensures that every patient benefits from a personalized, coordinated and compassionate treatment plan that includes leading experts across many specialties. Depending on the stage and other characteristics of your lung cancer, this treatment plan may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or a combination of these therapies. Your care team may include:

  • Pathologists who sub-specialize in thoracic cancers to provide a precise diagnosis of your cancer
  • Diagnostic and interventional radiologists who can help diagnose and/or treat lung conditions
  • Surgical oncologists who are leading the way in performing and developing the most advanced surgical approaches to treat lung cancer
  • Endoscopists skilled in performing minimally-invasive diagnostic and interventional procedures
  • Medical oncologists who plan the most effective chemotherapy and targeted treatments
  • Radiation oncologists who specialize in treating lung cancer with various forms of radiation such as photons, electrons and protons
  • Respiratory therapists to help improve and maintain function
  • Oncology nurses and nurse practitioners who care exclusively for patients with cancer
  • Oncology psychiatrists, social workers and chaplains experienced in helping with the cognitive side effects of cancer and treatment, as well the emotional and spiritual aspects of the cancer experience
  • Nutritionists to help you with questions about diet and nutrition during treatment
  • Palliative care providers to improve quality of life

Members of your care team meet regularly with you and contact your referring physician on an ongoing basis to ensure clear communication and a seamless coordination of care.

See the complete team list treating Lung Cancer

Patient Education

Esophageal Cancer

Esophageal cancer is cancer that develops in the esophagus, the muscular tube that connects the throat to the stomach.

Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is cancer that usually starts in the lining of the bronchi (the main airways of the lungs), but can also begin in other areas of the respiratory system, including the trachea, bronchioles, or alveoli.

Clinical Trials

The Cancer Center is a leading provider of clinical trials in New England for lung cancer, making clinical trial evaluation of new therapies a key treatment option. The goal of the clinical trial is to seek and answer scientific questions and to find better ways to prevent, diagnose, or treat lung cancer.

Find Clinical Trials for Lung Cancer

Find Targeted Therapy Trials for Lung Cancer

Our research program in lung cancer is a multifaceted effort designed to better understand cancer biology, discover new therapies and improve treatment. In addition to our extensive research into smart drugs and immunotherapy, our physician-scientists are also conducting epidemiological research on the genetic basis of lung and esophageal cancers in families, which hopefully will lead to more targeted treatments based on genetics. We also have a special focus on treating elderly patients with thoracic cancers. Our research program in esophageal and all thoracic cancers is one of New England’s largest, allowing us to bring promising new treatments to patients as quickly as possible.

Learn more about research at the Cancer Center. 


Cancer Center

55 Fruit Street
Boston, MA 02114

Phone: 617-726-5130

Request an Appointment

Talk to an access nurse today 877-789-6100

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