Physician Photo

Henning Willers, MD

Associate Professor of Radiation Oncology Attending Physician, Thoracic Radiation Oncology Service Head, Pulmonary SBRT 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 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

From a total of 55 publications:

Willers H, Held KD. Introduction to clinical radiation biology. Hemat Oncol Clin N Am 2006, 20:1-24

Wang M, Morsbach F, Sander D, Gheorghiu L, Nanda A, Benes C, Kriegs M, Krause M, Dikomey E, Baumann M, Dahm-Daphi J, Settleman JE, Willers H. EGF receptor inhibition radiosensitizes NSCLC cells by inducing senescence in cells sustaining DNA double-strand breaks. Cancer Res 2011,71:6261-9

Seco J, Reza H, Westover K, Adams J, Willers H. Treatment of NSCLC patients with proton beam-based stereotactic body radiation therapy: A dosimetric comparison with photon plans highlights the importance of range uncertainty. IJROBP 2012, 83:354-61

Westover K, Seco J, Adams J, Lanuti M, Choi N, Engelsman M, Willers H. Proton SBRT for medically inoperable stage I NSCLC. J Thoracic Oncol 2012, 7:1021-5

Birkelbach M, Ferraiolo N, Gheorghiu L, Pf?ffle H, Daly B, Ebright M, Spencer C, oHara C, Whetstine J, Benes C, Sequist L, Zou L, Dahm-Daphi J, Kachnic L, Willers H. Detection of Impaired Homologous Recombination Repair in NSCLC Cells and Tissues. J Thorac Oncol. 2013, 8:279-86

Willers H, Azzoli CG, Santivasi W, Xia F. Basic Mechanisms of Therapeutic Resistance to Radiation and Chemotherapy in Lung Cancer. Cancer J 2013, 19:200-7

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