Treatment Programs

Chordoma

Our multidisciplinary team provides expert care for patients with chordoma, a slow-growing bone cancer that can occur anywhere along the spine from the base of the skull to the tailbone.

The Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center’s Center for Sarcoma and Connective Tissue Oncology provides patients with expert chordoma care. We bring a unified focus to the evaluation, treatment, and support of chordoma patients, and to research advancing understanding of the causes of and treatments for this rare cancer.

Innovative ApproachesMassachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center is home to the new Stephan L. Harris Center for Chordoma Care, a comprehensive treatment and research center. In addition, the availability of proton beam therapy, as well as expertise in surgical management of spinal tumors, attract chordoma patients from around the world. Collaboration with specialists from the Center for Head and Neck Cancers, the Cranial Base Program, and the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary ensures expert, coordinated care for the widely varying manifestations of chordoma.

Multidisciplinary Patient CareOur 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. Your care team may include:

  • Pathologists evaluate all tumor samples to provide precise diagnostic and staging information
  • Radiologists offer advanced imaging to evaluate tumors, assist in surgical planning and monitor the results of treatment
  • Surgeons provide the most advanced surgical techniques to maximize tumor removal and maintain function. Depending on the location of the tumor, neurosurgeons, otolaryngologists, ophthalmologists, oculoplastic surgeons, surgical oncologists, orthopaedic oncology surgeons, and spine surgeons may be part of the team
  • Radiation oncologists offer innovative radiation therapy techniques customized to your individual needs and designed to deliver the most therapeutic radiation to the cancer while preserving adjacent healthy tissue
  • Medical and/or pediatric oncologists provide access to innovative systemic treatments for chordoma
  • Oncology nurses and nurse practitioners bring special expertise in cancer care
  • Oncology psychiatrists, social workers, and chaplains provide family, spiritual, emotional and mental health support
  • Oncology nutritionists help with dietary issues to enhance your health and well-being during treatment
  • Palliative care providers work with your team to address pain and quality-of-life concerns

Expertise in Diagnosing and Staging CancersOur musculoskeletal pathologists specializing in cancer of the bones and soft tissues consult on chordoma cases from around the world. Every biopsy is carefully evaluated to ensure an accurate diagnosis and to exclude other tumors that can mimic chordomas.

During surgery, the pathologist works closely with the surgeon and radiation oncologist to make sure that the resection is as effective as possible. The archiving of tissue collected at the time of biopsy and resection is enabling our pathologists to study chordomas on a molecular level. Their research is aimed at discovering the pathogenesis of chordomas and uncovering tumor markers to guide future therapies.

Advanced imaging technologies help to define the size and shape of the tumor, identify important normal tissue nearby, and aid in removal of the tumor and protection of normal tissue. These include:

  • MRI to pinpoint the location, size and shape of the tumor
  • High-resolution CT to pinpoint the location, size and shape of the tumor

Personalized TherapyThe Stephan L. Harris Center for Chordoma Care at Mass General provides extraordinary, compassionate care while advancing the art and science of evaluating, diagnosing, treating and supporting patients. Treatment is tailored to address the unique needs of each patient, and usually involves advanced surgical or radiation techniques, or a combination of these approaches.

Excellence in Surgical CareOur surgeons have extensive experience treating chordoma while minimizing damage to surrounding structures. Advanced surgical techniques include:

  • Endoscopic cranial base surgery is a noninvasive way to remove tumors through natural openings such as the nasal passages
  • Microsurgery, often used for cranial base tumors, involves operating on tiny structures through a microscope • Image-guided neurosurgery that allows the surgeon to navigate to the tumor without disrupting normal tissue and to operate through smaller incisions
  • Complex spinal operations, including “en bloc” resections – wide excisions of tumor in difficult anatomic location – and innovative reconstruction techniques

Pioneering Radiation TherapiesOur radiation oncologists offer a range of therapies designed to shrink or destroy tumors while protecting normal tissue. Advanced technologies include:

  • Proton beam therapy, a highly focused form of radiation that delivers precise radiation to the tumor while helping to spare surrounding healthy tissue
  • Intraoperative radiation therapy (IORT), a novel technique to deliver additional radiation during surgery to sites where the proximity of critical normal tissue prevents surgeons from removing as much tissue around the tumor as they would like
  • Intraoperative dural brachytherapy was developed by Cancer Center specialists. This new technique uses a custom-designed applicator imbued with a radioactive element to safely deliver radiation to areas of the spine close to the protective sac around the spinal cord

Learn more about radiation therapy.

Treating Cancer through Clinical TrialsThe Cancer Center is a site for trials of new targeted agents as well as a National Institutes of Health-sponsored study of familial chordoma. We can offer participation in this study to families in which two or more relatives have chordoma. Our goal is to search for genetic or hereditary factors that may help us to better understand the disease and suggest new therapies.

Find clinical trials for chordoma.
Find Targeted Therapy Trials for chordoma.

Developing Better Therapies through ResearchPhysician-scientists in the Sarcoma Molecular Biology laboratory are pursuing research to identify the genetic abnormalities associated with chordoma. We have the largest archive in the world of chordoma tissue, which we study to uncover the mechanisms that drive chordoma and to search for a cure.

Learn more about chordoma research underway at Mass General's Harris Center.

Bone Cancers

There are different types of bone cancers, which are typically defined as a malignant (cancerous) tumor of the bone that destroys normal bone tissue.

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 Center

The Maxwell V. Blum Cancer Resource Center is a program that offers a range of support resources around the Cancer Center. The center has an ongoing mission to make support services, as well as respite and community-building areas, more accessible to patients and families throughout the Cancer Center.

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.

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.

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 Center

The Maxwell V. Blum Cancer Resource Center is a program that offers a range of support resources around the Cancer Center. The center has an ongoing mission to make support services, as well as respite and community-building areas, more accessible to patients and families throughout the Cancer Center.

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.

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

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