Physician Photo

Henning Willers, MD

Associate Professor of Radiation Oncology; Attending Physician, Thoracic Radiation Oncology Service; Head, Pulmonary Stereotactic Body Radiation Program; Co-Director, Laboratory of Cellular & Molecular Radiation Oncology

  • Phone: 617-726-5184
Department of Radiation Oncology


  • Cancer Center
  • Thoracic Cancers
  • Radiation Oncology
Clinical Interests
Lung cancer, Esophageal cancer, Thymoma, Brain Metastases
Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT)
Precision Radiation Therapy (Adaptive IMRT)
Proton Radiation Therapy
Molecular Targeted Radiation Therapy
Boston: Massachusetts General Hospital
Medical Education
MD, University of Hamburg School of Medicine
Residency, Hermann Holthusen Institute for Radiotherapy
Residency, Massachusetts General Hospital
Board Certifications
Radiation Oncology, American Board of Radiology
Patient Age Group
Accepting New Patients
Accepting New Patients

BiographyDr. Willers obtained his M.D. from the University of Hamburg Medical School in Germany in 1994. Interrupting his residency training in radiation oncology in Germany, he came to Boston in 1996 to work as a research fellow on DNA repair in the laboratory of Simon Powell, M.D., Ph.D.. He then completed his residency training in radiation oncology at the MGH in 2005. Following three years as an attending physician in the Department of Radiation Oncology at Boston Medical Center, he returned to the MGH in 2008 to join Noah C. Choi, M.D. on the Thoracic Radiation Oncology Service in the Department of Radiation Oncology. Dr. Willers has a busy clinical practice focusing on the care of patient with thoracic cancers of various types while also spending time in the laboratory. He is active in clinical, physics, and biology research with the overarching goal to build a molecular targeted radiation program that combines the latest advances in biological therapies with precision radiation therapy to increase the likelihood of cure without complications in patients with lung cancer.


Research efforts in Dr. Willers' laboratory are mainly directed at furthering our understanding of how non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLC) respond to radiation treatments and radiosensitizing drugs. The underlying clinical problem is that NSCLC tend to be difficult to eradicate by radiation therapy, owing to large size and biological characteristics. Therefore, novel treatment approaches are needed to overcome lung cancer radioresistance. There are three major focus areas:

  1. Elucidate mechanisms of genotype-correlated radioresistance in NSCLC, and identify biological targets to overcome that resistance.
  2. Develop a precision radiation medicine screening platform for testing of novel radiosensitizing drugs in genomically characterized NSCLC cell lines and identification of genomic biomarkers.
  3. Target DNA repair pathways in NSCLC, in order to personalize DNA damaging therapies that include radiation.

Dr. Willers' clinical research activities focus on:

  1. Using proton beam radiation therapy in lung cancer to improve therapeutic efficacy and sparing of normal organs.
  2. Developing personalized, high-precision radiation treatment approaches for tumors in the chest ("adaptive IMRT with multicriteria optimization and daily image guidance").
  3. The application of stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) in patients with early-stage and metastatic NSCLC as well as lung metastases.

Dr. Willers' long-term goal is to contribute to the realization of "personalized" curative cancer therapy.


View my most recent publications at PubMed

Out of 57 publications:

Wang M, Kern A, H?lsk?tter M, Greninger P, Singh A, Pan Y, Chowdhury D, Krause M, Baumann M, Benes C, Efstathiou J, Settleman J, Willers H. EGFR-mediated chromatin condensation protects KRAS-mutant cancer cells against ionizing radiation. Cancer Res 2014;74:2825-34

Liu Q, Wang M, Kern A, Khaled S, Han J, Yeap B, Hong T, Settleman J, Benes C, Held K, Efstathiou J, Willers H. Adapting a Drug Screening Platform to Discover Associations of Molecular Targeted Radiosensitizers with Genomic Biomarkers. Mol Cancer Res 2015;13:713-20

Liu Q, Ghosh P, Magpayo N, Testa M, Tang S, Biggs P, Paganetti H, Efstathiou J, Lu HM, Held K, Willers H. Lung Cancer Cell Line Screen Links Fanconi Anemia/BRCA Pathway Defects to Increased RBE of Proton Radiation. IJROBP 2015;91:1081-9

Al-Halabi H, Paetzold P, Sharp G, Olsen C, Willers H. A Contralateral Esophagus-Sparing Technique to Limit Severe Esophagitis Associated With Concurrent High-Dose Radiation and Chemotherapy in Patients With Thoracic Malignancies. IJROBP 2015;92:803-10

Al-Halabi H, Sayegh K, Digamurthy S, Niemierko A, Piotrowska Z, Willers H, Sequist L. Pattern of Failure Analysis in Metastatic EGFR-Mutant Lung Cancer Treated with Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitors to Identify Candidates for Consolidation SBRT. J Thorac Oncol, 2015, in press

Clark Center for Radiation Oncology
100 Blossom Street
Boston, MA 02114-2606

Phone: 617-726-5184
Fax: 617-726-3603

Radiation Oncology- Boston Medical Center
830 Harrison Avenue
Boston, MA 02118

Phone: 617-726-5184
Fax: 617-726-3603