Central Nervous System Program

Specialists in the Central Nervous System Program in the Department of Radiation Oncology include some of the world's leading experts in using radiation therapies to treat brain tumors and cancers of the spine and peripheral nervous system.

Using sophisticated radiation therapies such as proton therapy, stereotactic radiotherapy, stereotactic radiosurgery and other innovative radiation therapies, we treat:

  • Primary malignant brain tumors: Originating in the brain, these tumors include a variety of gliomas such as low-grade astrocytomas, anaplastic astrocytomas, glioblastomas, oligodendroglial tumors and mixed glial tumors
  • Benign brain tumors: These noncancerous tumors include meningiomas, acoustic neuromas (vestibular schwannomas), pituitary adenomas and glomus tumors
  • Metastatic brain tumors: These malignant cancers begin growing in another part of the body before spreading to the brain
  • Other tumors of the central nervous system: Diagnoses include other schwannoma, craniopharyngioma, hemangiopericytoma, hemangioblastoma, pineal tumors, ependymoma, neurocytoma and malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors

Breaking New Ground in Radiation Therapy

Many leading-edge treatments we use were introduced or developed by our team, including:

  • Proton therapy: This breakthrough treatment pinpoints high energy to a brain tumor while demonstrating excellent results in protecting surrounding tissue when compared with traditional photon therapy. In 1961 its clinical use was pioneered by Harvard physicists. Their work inspired Herman Suit, MD, to champion the founding of the Francis H. Burr Proton Therapy Center at Mass General, one of only a few such centers in the country
  • Stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS): This technique targets very small tumors with exceptional precision and high energy to treat brain tumors in a single session. Jay Loeffler, MD, chief of our department, was one of the physicians who adapted this technique from the Gamma Knife to the linear accelerator, a major step forward in the evolution of this treatment

Innovative & Effective Cancer TreatmentsOur radiation oncologists' are renowned for their expertise in targeting and customizing the right therapy or combination of therapies to meet the unique needs of each patient. In addition to proton therapy and stereotactic radiosurgery, we offer the complete spectrum of the latest radiation treatments, such as:

  • Stereotactic radiation therapy (SRT)
  • Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT)
  • Intraoperative radiation therapy (IORT)
  • Brachytherapy
  • 3D conformal radiation therapy

Dedicated, World-Class Physicians

A hallmark of our program is the compassionate care and individualized attention patients receive from our clinical staff. Every step of your treatment is managed by one of the world's leading practitioners of radiation oncology.

Our physician staff includes:

  • Dr. Loeffler has treated patients with brain tumors and other cancers of the central nervous system for more than 25 years. He is one of the most respected authorities in his field, both as a clinician and as a pioneer in stereotactic radiotherapeutic techniques.
  • Helen A. Shih, MD, MPH, associate medical director of the Francis H. Burr Proton Therapy Center, treats patients with brain tumors of all types. Her interests include proton therapy and the development of treatment delivery systems to improve care for
  • Kevin Oh, MD, formerly of the University of Michigan, is an experienced and dedicated physician who brings diverse perspectives to brain-tumor management

What to Expect

Our comprehensive approach includes working closely with your multidisciplinary team at the highly specialized Stephen E. and Catherine Pappas Center for Neuro-Oncology, part of the Cancer Center. Your team may include clinical experts in neurology, brain surgery, radiology, pathology and psychiatry. Social services are also available to all patients.

The answers to many frequently asked questions also appear in Your Guide to Radiation Therapy (PDF).

Acoustic Neuroma

Acoustic neurinoma, also referred to as acoustic neuroma or vestibular schwannoma, is a non-cancerous tumor that may develop from an overproduction of Schwann cells that press on the hearing and balance nerves in the inner ear.


Acromegaly is a disorder of the pituitary gland which produces excess growth hormones and thus results in excessive growth, first in the hands and feet, as soft tissue begins to swell.

Brain Tumors

A brain tumor is an abnormal growth of tissue in the brain. The tumor can either originate in the brain itself, or come from another part of the body and travel to the brain (metastasize). Brain tumors may be classified as either benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous), depending on their behavior.

Pituitary Tumors

Although rare, most pituitary tumors are not cancerous (benign), comprising only 7 percent of brain tumors. However, most pituitary tumors will press against the optic nerves, causing vision problems.

Your Guide to Radiation Therapy (PDF)

Read our patient information guide to learn more about the different types of radiation treatments and what patients can expect.

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.

Your Guide to Radiation Therapy (PDF)

Read our patient information guide to learn more about the different types of radiation treatments and what patients can expect.

Clark Center for Radiation Oncology

Vida E & Arthur L. Goldstein Lunder Building
Lunder Building LL3
55 Fruit Street
Boston, MA 02114

Phone: 617-726- 8651
Fax: 857-238-6377
Email: InformationRadOnc@Partners.org

Public Transportation Access: yes
Disabled Access: yes

Francis H. Burr Proton Therapy Center
30 Fruit Street
Boston, MA 02114
Phone: 617-726-0923 (Proton Inquiry Line: 617-724-1680)
Fax: 617-726-6498
Email: InformationRadOnc@partners.org