Photo of happy, healthy child

Proton Therapy for Children

Mass General and the Department of Radiation Oncology have played a critical role in the development and refinement of proton radiotherapy. We have one of the largest pediatric programs in the world and have treated well over 1,600 children. We are the only proton center in New England, and an international referral center for pediatric radiation oncology.

Contact the Department of Radiation Oncology at: 617-724-1836

Support Pediatric Radiation Oncology Reach us through Patient Gateway

Overview

MassGeneral Hospital for Children’s Department of Radiation Oncology provides radiation therapy to treat a variety of tumors in children using the most current techniques available. The Mass General Department of Radiation Oncology was the first proton center in the United States to pioneer proton radiotherapy in the pediatric population and has been treating children with fractionated proton radiotherapy since 1974.

The goal of radiation therapy is to destroy or shrink tumor cells without damaging surrounding healthy tissue, often together with surgery and/or chemotherapy depending on the tumor that we are treating.

Radiation plans are custom designed for each patient in order to target the tumor with maximum sparing of healthy tissue. At Mass General we have access to many types of radiation including photons, electrons, and protons. Proton therapy is the most common form of radiation used to treat pediatric patients at Mass General.

An integral part of one of the world’s most distinguished medical centers, Mass General’s Francis H. Burr Proton Therapy Center represents the forefront of technological advances in radiation therapy coupled with expert, comprehensive, and compassionate family-centered care. We employ image guidance with all of our proton treatments and use both passively scattered 3D conformal proton radiotherapy as well as pencil beam scanning. Proton radiosurgery is also readily available. Proton radiation therapy is unique, because more than any other type of radiation, protons allow radiation to be directed to a very limited area, which reduces potential damage to nearby healthy tissues. This is particularly useful for certain tumor types in children where long-term effects on growth and development are very important. Children’s bodies are more vulnerable to the effects of radiation, so any healthy tissue that can be spared becomes vital.

In addition to proton therapy, MassGeneral Hospital for Children also provides state-of-the-art stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS), stereotactic radiation therapy (SRT), and intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT). In all types of radiation, our radiation oncologists work with clinical physicists to bring the latest technological developments to our patients, from respiratory or cardiac gating, to cone-beam CT, and adaptive radiotherapeutic planning. Treatment plans are created using the most advanced computing and imaging techniques. Our radiation oncologists and physicists have access to a complete array of devices to carefully administer radiation to target tissues while minimizing radiation exposure to uninvolved tissue.

Multidisciplinary Treatment for Complex Diagnoses

We understand that having a sick child is stressful for the child, parents, siblings and other family members. It is our goal to provide the highest quality care, while considering the unique needs of children with cancer and their families. For this reason, we have a multidisciplinary team approach. Our experienced and dynamic team includes specialists in pediatric oncology, pediatric radiation oncology, pediatric surgery, pediatric neurosurgery, pediatric neuroradiology, pediatric neurology, pediatric anesthesia, pediatric rehabilitation, pediatric nursing, social work, child life, and other support staff. Massachusetts General Hospital is home to the Katherine Gallagher Integrative Therapies Program which offers wellness services, free of charge, including music, art, massage, and acupuncture. These wonderful activities are open to patients and their families.

Pediatric Oncology: The doctors in the Division of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology at MassGeneral Hospital for Children are our close partners in caring for our pediatric patients who come for proton radiotherapy, since many require chemotherapy during radiation treatment. Our pediatric colleagues provide personalized multidisciplinary, state-of-the-art care to children of all ages.

Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital has a 12-bed private room pediatric unit which regularly treats our children who are in need of intensive inpatient rehabilitation. Commonly, children will be getting intensive rehabilitation while still getting their daily radiation treatments. The clinicians at Spaulding are experts in Posterior Fossa Syndrome as well as other neurological effects that can track with brain and spinal cord tumors. One parent at a time may stay overnight for as long as needed, and we have a welcoming visitation policy for family members, siblings and peers.

MassGeneral Hospital for Children Inpatient Facilities: Children admitted to the hospital for an overnight visit will stay in the Ellison Building at MassGeneral Hospital for Children. General medical and surgical-care patients stay on the 17th or 18th floor, complete with child- and adolescent-friendly rooms, playrooms and lounges. Each room also is equipped with a bathroom, shower and television. Laptop computers and game consoles also are available on inpatient floors. Each floor has a kitchen and laundry services for extended stays. Parents may stay overnight with their child in the room. See a video introduction to Ellison 17or Ellison 18, including who’s who on staff and accommodations for parents and guardians staying overnight with children.

State-of-the-Art Facilities in a World-Renowned Academic Medical Center

The Francis H. Burr Proton Therapy Center at Massachusetts General Hospital is the original proton therapy center in the United States. The proton radiation program builds on more than forty years of pioneering work and experience gained by physicians, physicists, researchers and clinical support staff at Harvard University’s Cyclotron Laboratory. In the 1960’s, the Harvard Cyclotron Laboratory was one of the world’s first facilities to explore the use of protons in the treatment of patients with cancer. More than 9,000 patients were treated from 1961 to its closing in 2002. Fully operational in 2001, the new proton facility, the Francis H. Burr Proton Therapy Center, was made possible by funding from Massachusetts General Hospital and the National Cancer Institute. Additionally, due to the success of the proton radiotherapy program, we will be opening a fourth proton treatment room in 2017.

Conditions Treated

Treatment is available for pediatric brain tumors including:

  • Medulloblastoma and PNET (primitive neuroectodermal tumor)
  • Ependymoma
  • Craniopharyngioma
  • Low and high grade gliomas (including pilocytic astrocytomas and other astrocytic varients)
  • Central nervous system germ cell tumors (including germinoma)
  • Other more rare pediatric brain tumors

As well as other pediatric tumors outside of the central nervous system including:

  • Rhabdomyosarcoma
  • Bone sarcomas
    • Ewing’s sarcoma
    • Osteosarcoma
  • Neuroblastoma
  • Retinoblastoma
  • Hodgkin’s lymphoma and other lymphomas
  • Other rare pediatric tumors that may benefit from proton radiotherapy

Please visit the National Cancer Institute for more information about cancer in children and adolescents.

Compassionate, Family-Centered Care

At MassGeneral Hospital for Children, we know that the time of your child’s diagnosis and treatment is a very stressful one, and we strive to provide an open, welcoming environment. We believe that no one knows a child as well as the parent does: parents, along with primary care providers, become our partners in a child’s care and have an active voice in all treatment plans.

We believe it is important to have a comfortable place to for families to call home if they need to temporarily relocate for the duration of treatment. We understand what a stressful and overwhelming time this often is. Our team can help you find a place to stay, set up a tutor, and learn your way around Boston.

Local Accommodations

Meet the Team

What We Treat

Before Your Appointment

Pediatric Housing Options

At MassGeneral Hospital for Children, we understand that many families require relocation during Proton Therapy. We have a variety of options when it comes to housing in the Boston area. Listed below are some options that have worked well for many of the families previously treated at MGHfC. We have included some general information and requirements for each location to help you to identify the best option for your family. We strongly recommend you begin the process of confirming housing as soon as you know your family will be coming to Boston for treatment.

Ronald McDonald House at Boston Harbor

Address: 250 First Ave #318, Charlestown, MA (2.1 miles from MGH)
Phone Number: (617) 398-6458
Price: No Fee
Accommodations: Fully-furnished and equipped private apartments with two or more beds for families of pediatric patients with a shared space for communal gatherings, programming and fun
Parking: One free on-site parking spot and free shuttle to the hospital
Requirements:

  • Patient must be 21 years old or younger
  • Patient must live greater than 40 miles from the Ronald McDonald House
  • Patient must be receiving treatment 2-3 times per week
  • Family must complete a Request to Stay form, available online at rmhbostonharbor.org/

Christopher's Haven

Address: One Emerson Place, Boston, MA (Adjacent to MGH)
Phone Number: (857) 233-4178
Price: $30 per night
Accommodations: Fully-furnished and equipped private apartments with two or more beds for families of pediatric patients with “The Loft” as a space for communal gatherings, programming and fun
Parking: Free parking available upon request from Christopher’s Haven; once requested, parking is in the Government Center Garage
Requirements:

  • Patient must be receiving a minimum of four weeks’ outpatient pediatric cancer treatment
  • Primary caregiver must be at least 18 years of age and able to communicate in English
  • Family must contact Catie Botting, Family Services Manager, at catiebotting@christophershaven.org or by calling (857)233-4178

MGH at the Beacon House

Address: 19 Myrtle Street, Boston MA (5 blocks from MGH)
Phone Number: (617) 726-7679
Price: $69-$118 per night
Accommodations: Small studio with private bathroom and kitchen; MGH affiliated facility
Parking: No on-site parking, parking discount available at MGH parking garages
Requirements:

MGH at the Beacon House Annex

Address: 19 Myrtle Street, Boston MA (5 blocks from MGH)
Phone Number: (617) 726-7679
Price: $40-$50 per night
Accommodations: Private bedroom with a shared bathroom and kitchen; MGH affiliated facility
Parking: No on-site parking, parking discount available at MGH Parking garages
Requirements:

Hospitality Homes

Address: Location varies by placement
Phone Number: (888)595-4678
Price: $25 per night (suggested donation)
Accommodations: Families are placed with host families who volunteer their home as a residence; amenities vary by location
Parking: Varies by location
Requirements:

  • Families must live a minimum of 50 miles from Boston
  • Hospitality Homes matches patients with host families
  • Application available online at hosp.org or by calling (888)595-4678

American Cancer Society offers additional options for patients with cancer and their families, subject to conditions and availability; American Cancer Society can be contacted at https://www.cancer.org/treatment/support-programs-and-services/patient-lodging.html or by calling (800) 227-2345

News

  • Olivia Finds Inner Strength, Grace Through a Complex Diagnosis - 12/16/2016, Mass General

    For years, doctors could not determine why Olivia Renzi, 17, was growing so rapidly. She was much taller than other children her age and wasn’t developing normally. In 2013, her mother knew something wasn’t right, so she brought her then 14-year-old daughter to MGHfC. Olivia was diagnosed with gigantism, a rare growth disorder, but the diagnosis taught her to tap into a source of inner strength she didn't know she had.

  • Proton therapy controls common pediatric brain tumor with fewer long-term side effects - 1/29/2016, Research

    The use of proton radiotherapy to treat the most common malignant brain tumor in children is as effective as standard photon (x-ray) radiation therapy while causing fewer long-term side effects such as hearing loss and cognitive disorders, according to a study receiving online publication in Lancet Oncology.

  • Charlie's Story: Instilling Confidence Through a High Standard of Care - 11/20/2015, Mass General

    Charlie Beecher's family described the first two years of his life as joyously normal until Charlie developed belly pain. When they found out it was cancer, the Beechers brought Charlie to the Francis H. Burr Proton Therapy Center, which helped Charlie return to his normal, happy childhood.

  • Ryan's Story: Inspired by Compassionate Care to Achieve His Dreams - 9/21/2015, Mass General

    When Ryan Schlosser received his master's degree this year, he thought of everyone who supported him along the way, especially his care team at the Francis H. Burr Proton Therapy Center at MGHfC, who played a larger role in his success than he ever imagined.

  • Alex's Story: Family-Centered Care Helps Kids Be Kids Throughout Challenging Treatments - 9/2/2015, Mass General

    When Alex Sheehan was diagnosed with a brain tumor at age 10, staff at the Francis H. Burr Proton Therapy Center helped him simply be a kid during a challenging time.

  • Score! - 5/16/2014, Mass General

    Exuberant MassGeneral Hospital for Children patient Devin Cheeks, 14, rang the bell marking his final treatment at the Francis H. Burr Proton Therapy Center on May 7.

  • Going the distance - 4/20/2012, Mass General

    Crossing the finish line of a marathon is a feat in itself, but completing the race and supporting a good cause is a triumph times two.

  • MGH Proton Therapy Patients Celebrate the End of Treatment and Ring In 2011 - 6/10/2011, Mass General

    After completing weeks of treatment at Mass General Hospital's Francis H. Burr Proton Therapy Center, patients celebrate by ringing the bell three times and look forward to 2011.

  • Patients Find Mentors, Friends at Proton Center - 1/25/2011, Mass General

    Pediatric patients mentor one another to undergo proton therapy without anesthesia.

  • A second chance - 7/30/2010, Mass General

    MGH Hotline 07.30.10 Th efforts of three doctors at three separate institutions came together to forever change the life of one little boy living in a remote village in Haiti.

Patient Stories

Photo of Charlie Beecher, shortly after he started proton beam treatment.
Charlie Beecher, shortly after he started proton beam treatment.

Charlie's Story: Instilling Confidence Through a High Standard of Care - 11/20/2015
Charlie Beecher's family described the first two years of his life as joyously normal until Charlie developed belly pain. When they found out it was cancer, the Beechers brought Charlie to the Francis H. Burr Proton Therapy Center, which helped Charlie return to his normal, happy childhood.

Ryan's Story: Inspired by Compassionate Care to Achieve His Dreams - 9/21/2015
When Ryan Schlosser received his master's degree this year, he thought of everyone who supported him along the way, especially his care team at the Francis H. Burr Proton Therapy Center at MGHfC, who played a larger role in his success than he ever imagined.

Alex's Story: Family-Centered Care Helps Kids Be Kids Throughout Challenging Treatments - 9/2/2015
When Alex Sheehan was diagnosed with a brain tumor at age 10, staff at the Francis H. Burr Proton Therapy Center helped him simply be a kid during a challenging time.

Score! - 5/16/2014
Exuberant MassGeneral Hospital for Children patient Devin Cheeks, 14, rang the bell marking his final treatment at the Francis H. Burr Proton Therapy Center on May 7.

Patients Find Mentors, Friends at Proton Center - 1/25/2011
Pediatric patients mentor one another to undergo proton therapy without anesthesia.

Clinical Research

The Francis H. Burr Proton Therapy center is actively conducting MGH lead clinical trials for pediatric cancer patients treated with Proton Therapy here at Massachusetts General Hospital. While all of these trials are led by doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital, a number of these studies enroll patients from numerous hospitals across the country adding to the cooperative nature of our research. Learn more.

Currently accruing trials:

Video

Contact

Contact Us

MGHfC Radiation Oncology

Yawkey Center for Outpatient Care

30 Fruit StreetFrancis H. Burr Proton Therapy Center Boston, MA 02114
  • Near Public Transit
  • Accessible
  • Phone: 617-724-1836
  • Fax: 617-724-4808

If you're sending clinical information, please Fedex to:
Pediatric Radiation Oncology
Yawkey Center for Outpatient Care
Francis H. Burr Proton Therapy Center
30 Fruit Street, Room 107
Boston, MA 02114

Contact the Department of Radiation Oncology at: 617-724-1836

Support Pediatric Radiation Oncology Reach us through Patient Gateway

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