Chordoma Treatment Program

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.
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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 Approaches

Massachusetts 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.

Expertise in Diagnosing and Staging Cancers

Our 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 Therapy

The 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 Care

Our 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 Therapies

Our 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.

Developing Better Therapies through Research

Physician-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 under way at Mass General's Harris Center.

Meet the Team

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. 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.

See our multidisciplinary team of sarcoma experts

Patient Education

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.

Clinical Trials

The 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.


Cancer Center

55 Fruit Street
Boston, MA 02114

Phone: (617) 726-5130

Request an Appointment

Talk to an access nurse today 877-726-5130

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