Treatment Programs

Colorectal Cancer

The Tucker Gosnell Center for Gastrointestinal Cancer is one of the largest and most experienced centers in New England for the treatment of cancers of the colon and rectum.

GI specialists at the Mass General Cancer Center

Colon Cancer Treatment Process

The Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center offers a collaborative and caring approach to diagnosis and treatment of patients with confirmed or suspected colon cancer. Your access nurse will guide you through the process.

The Tucker Gosnell Center for Gastrointestinal Cancers offers a collaborative and caring approach to the diagnosis and treatment of patients with confirmed or suspected colorectal cancer. 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 colorectal cancer
  • Leading-edge surgical procedures such as sphincter-sparing rectal cancer surgery, an innovative procedure that helps patients avoid permanent colostomies.
  • Experience performing the world’s first natural orifice endoscopic surgery for rectal cancer, eliminating the need for any incisions
  • Proton beam radiation treatment at the Francis Burr Northeast Proton Therapy Center, New England’s only proton radiation facility
  • Innovative endoscopy approaches, provided by New England’s only Advanced Endoscopy Service in collaboration with Mass General’s Digestive Healthcare Center
  • Rapid diagnosis and staging of all biopsied tumors by pathologists who sub-specialize in colorectal tumors

Multidisciplinary Patient Care

Our team approach ensures that every patient benefits from an individualized, coordinated and compassionate treatment plan, with care provided by leading experts from many specialties. We consider patients and their family and friends involved in their care to be part of this team. We are dedicated to ensuring that patients fully understand their diagnosis and treatment options. Depending on the stage and other characteristics of your colorectal cancer, your treatment plan may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation or a combination of these therapies.
Your care team may include:

  • Pathologists and diagnostic radiologists who sub-specialize in colorectal cancers to provide a precise diagnosis of your cancer, including any “tumor markers” that can help your care team determine the best treatment.
  • Surgeons who specialize in the treatment of GI cancers who are leading the way in performing and developing the most advanced surgical approaches for colorectal cancer
  • Gastroenterologists specializing in digestive health
  • Endoscopists skilled in performing minimally-invasive interventional procedures
  • Medical Oncologists who prescribe the most effective chemotherapy and immunotherapy treatments
  • Radiation Oncologists who specialize in delivering the optimal therapeutic dose while protecting healthy tissue
  • 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
  • A nutritionist to help you with questions about diet and nutrition during treatment
  • Palliative care providers to improve quality of life

Members of your care team communicate regularly with you and your referring physician to ensure clear understanding and seamless coordination of care.

Expertise in Diagnosing and Staging Colorectal CancerPrecise diagnosis, tumor characterization and staging (determining whether the cancer has spread) are the basis for designing the most appropriate treatment plan for you. Our GI cancer pathologists sub-specialize in colorectal tumors and are internationally recognized and consulted on the diagnosis of colon and rectal cancer. They participate in weekly tumor board meetings, sharing information about each patient’s unique cancer with the entire care team to help guide treatment planning.

All members of our diagnostic radiology team are nationally recognized for expertise in using the most advanced imaging tools to diagnose and stage colorectal cancer and to detect tumor changes. Our imaging technologies include:

  • High-speed two- and three-dimensional CT studies
  • Positron Emission Tomography/Computed Tomography (PET/CT)
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
  • CT colonoscopy (virtual colonoscopy)
  • Intraoperative Ultrasound
  • Lymphotrophic Nanoparticle Enhanced MRI (Molecular Imaging)

Other services include:

  • Tumor perfusion imaging with CT and MRI
  • Spectral imaging with CT
  • 3D imaging for pre-surgical planning and for monitoring treatment effects

Medical OncologyFor many patients diagnosed with colorectal cancer, chemotherapy may be the most effective treatment. Some new therapies that are currently available or in development are designed to block 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 using standard chemotherapy and radiation. Learn more about genetic testing and targeted therapies.

Excellence in Surgical CareOur surgical team provides state-of-the-art evaluation, treatment and post-surgical services. The primary treatment for colorectal cancer is an operation called a colon resection, in which the cancer and nearby lymph nodes are removed. We are pioneers in leading-edge colorectal surgical procedures, including sphincter-sparing rectal cancer surgery, an innovative procedure that helps avoid permanent colostomies. Our surgeons have extensive experience performing these advanced procedures, which makes us a major referral center for complex medical and surgical issues.

Our colorectal cancer surgeons have pioneered many now-standard procedures and minimally invasive surgical techniques that aid in rapid recovery and nerve preservation so patients often can retain normal organ function. We recently performed the world’s first NOTES resection (Natural Orifice Translumenal Endoscopic Surgery) of a rectal cancer that avoided the need for any incisions. Our surgeons’ advanced laparoscopic skills, combined with their extensive experience, make each patient’s needs the key factor in choosing the best approach. We offer one of the few operating rooms specially designed to facilitate complex procedures, allowing surgeons to work side-by-side with multiple surgical subspecialists.

Learn more about colorectal cancer surgery. 

Pioneering Radiation Therapies Our radiation oncologists use the most advanced therapies to treat colorectal 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
  • Intraoperative radiation therapy - in which radiation is given inside the body as close to the cancer as possible. In some cases, external radiation therapies are used along with this treatment.
  • Proton beam radiation – a precise form of radiation therapy designed to target tumors while helping to preserve surrounding healthy tissue

Treating Cancer through Clinical TrialsThe Cancer Center is a leading provider of clinical trails in New England for colorectal cancers, making clinical trial evaluation of new therapies a key treatment option. The goal of clinical trials is to seek and answer scientific questions and to find better ways to prevent, diagnose or treat cancer. Current clinical trials for colorectal cancer include:

  • Genetic evaluation for colon, gastric, esophageal and other GI cancers
  • Targeted agents in combination with radiation for GI cancers

Find clinical trials for colorectal cancer.
Find Targeted Therapy Trials for colorectal cancer.

Developing Better Therapies through ResearchOur research program in colon and rectal cancer is a multi-faceted effort designed to better understand cancer biology, discover new therapies and improve treatment. The research program in colorectal and all GI cancers is one of New England’s largest, allowing us to bring promising new treatments to patients as quickly as possible. Learn more about our colorectal cancer research.

Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer is malignant cells found in the colon or rectum.

The Katherine A. Gallagher Integrative Therapies Program

The Katherine A. Gallagher Integrative Therapies Program focuses on improving the quality of life and well-being of Cancer Center patients, their families and friends through free wellness services such as acupuncture and yoga. These services help you take care of your whole self — mind, body and spirit.

Maxwell V. Blum Cancer Resource Room

The Maxwell V. Blum Cancer Resource Room at the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center provides cancer patients and their families with information and resources for living with cancer.

Illuminations Program

Illuminations is a rotating art exhibit displayed in the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center. The program aims to enlighten and encourage patients and their loved ones by enhancing our environment of care.

The PACT Program

The Marjorie E. Korff PACT program at the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center provides psycho-educational support for parents who are patients.

Oncology Chaplaincy

Our oncology chaplain is familiar with the unique needs of those with cancer.

Ostomy Support Group

We welcome patients with a new or existing colostomy, ileostomy or urostomy, and their family and friends, to monthly meetings of the Massachusetts General Hospital Ostomy Support Group.

Home Disconnect

A home infusion pump may be part of your treatment plan. In some cases, you may have the option for disconnecting the chemotherapy from home. If this option applies to you, and you would prefer to disconnect from home, this instructional video will reinforce the teaching provided to you by your nurse in the Mass General cancer Center

The following related clinical trials and research studies are currently seeking participants at Massachusetts General Hospital. Search for clinical trials and studies in another area of interest.

Colorectal Screening Saves Lives

Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer death among men and women nationwide. But, if detected early colorectal cancer is treatable and beatable.

The Katherine A. Gallagher Integrative Therapies Program

The Katherine A. Gallagher Integrative Therapies Program focuses on improving the quality of life and well-being of Cancer Center patients, their families and friends through free wellness services such as acupuncture and yoga. These services help you take care of your whole self — mind, body and spirit.

Maxwell V. Blum Cancer Resource Room

The Maxwell V. Blum Cancer Resource Room at the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center provides cancer patients and their families with information and resources for living with cancer.

Illuminations Program

Illuminations is a rotating art exhibit displayed in the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center. The program aims to enlighten and encourage patients and their loved ones by enhancing our environment of care.

The PACT Program

The Marjorie E. Korff PACT program at the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center provides psycho-educational support for parents who are patients.

Oncology Chaplaincy

Our oncology chaplain is familiar with the unique needs of those with cancer.

Ostomy Support Group

We welcome patients with a new or existing colostomy, ileostomy or urostomy, and their family and friends, to monthly meetings of the Massachusetts General Hospital Ostomy Support Group.

Home Disconnect

A home infusion pump may be part of your treatment plan. In some cases, you may have the option for disconnecting the chemotherapy from home. If this option applies to you, and you would prefer to disconnect from home, this instructional video will reinforce the teaching provided to you by your nurse in the Mass General cancer Center

Cancer Center

55 Fruit Street
Boston, MA 02114

Phone: 617-726-5130

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Discover the Cancer Center patient experience

Our approach to patient care unites cancer specialists across the hospital to create a personalized treatment plan for each patient, ensuring the best possible outcomes.

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Your gift enables our team at the Tucker Gosnell Center for Gastrointestinal Cancers to pursue new treatment options for patients with gastrointestinal cancers.