Head and Neck Program

The Department of Radiation Oncology's Head-and-Neck Program specializes in providing state-of-the-art radiation therapy for patients with head-and-neck cancers, including complex forms of these diseases.

Our ApproachOur program, part of a collaborative effort between two major hospitals, is unique not only to Boston but also to the U.S. medical community. To provide outstanding and comprehensive care, we work with a multidisciplinary team that includes accomplished physicians from Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and the Mass General Cancer Center.

As members of this highly specialized team, our role is to integrate today's advanced radiation therapies into each patient's treatment plan, which often begins with surgery and also may involve chemotherapy. We treat the complete range of head-and-neck cancers and other diseases, including:

  • Tumors of the mouth, nasal cavity, tonsils, tongue, tongue base and larynx
  • Primary cancers of the neck
  • Cancers of the hypopharynx, nasal pharynx and paranasal sinuses
  • Cranial base tumors
  • Rare and complex tumors (e.g. adenoid cystic carcinoma, esthesioneuroblastoma and sinonasal carcinoma)

Commitment to Innovation

In the 1970s, Mass General’s C.C. Wong, MD, a pioneer of head-and-neck radiation oncology, led groundbreaking studies that demonstrated how administering radiotherapy twice daily could improve outcomes in many patients. Today our physicians and scientists continue to develop and investigate new techniques and technologies used around the world to make treatment more effective and improve the quality of patients' lives.

Our team has been involved in breakthroughs such as:

  • Proton therapy: This advanced treatment pinpoints high energy to the tumor while demonstrating excellent results in protecting surrounding tissue and nerves. Mass General’s Francis H. Burr Proton Therapy Center
  • 4D CT scanning: Pioneered by our team, this imaging technology breakthrough enables us to plan more precise dosing of tumors in the head-and-neck region by accounting for tumor motion associated with breathing and swallowing
  • Respiratory gating: With the aid of 4D scanning, our research team refined this technique, which delivers radiation to a tumor during the exhale phase. By doing so, we are able to treat tumors of the mouth, throat, sinuses and nasal cavity with greater precision while sparing surrounding tissue much better than with conventional therapy

Our depth and breadth of expertise also covers treatment with advanced therapies such as:

World-Class Radiation OncologistsPlanning and administering radiation therapy for head-and-neck tumors is complicated due to the sensitive nature of the structures in this area (e.g. the spinal cord, cranial nerves, the eyes and blood vessels to and from the brain). Much of the anatomy is hidden beneath or among bone, nerves and tissue, and the patterns in which some tumors spread can be intricate. We treat these complex conditions regularly and have built a nationwide reputation for managing the most difficult cases.

Our staff of accomplished physicians includes:

  • Paul Busse, MD, PhD, program chief and clinical director of the Department of Radiation Oncology, has treated a wide array of complex head-and-neck cancers over the past 25 years. Dr. Busse's clinical specialties including integrating proton therapy with chemotherapy for select patients and treating tongue cancer with brachytherapy
  • Norbert Liebsch, MD, PhD, is an expert in treating maxillofacial cancers and tumors of the orbit (eye) with proton therapy. An accomplished researcher and educator, Dr. Liebsch has practiced radiation oncology for nearly three decades
  • Annie Chan, MD, specializes in treating sinonasal tumors and other cancers of the head and neck. Dr. Chan's expertise includes IMRT, proton therapy and stereotactic radiosurgery

What to ExpectTo help patients cope with side effects, our nurses provide patients with one-on-one assistance, including comprehensive pain management services, nutritional advice and weekly monitoring and treatment of symptoms.

We encourage you to ask us about any step in the treatment process. The answers to many frequently asked questions also appear in Your Guide to Radiation Therapy (PDF).

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.

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.

Laryngeal Cancer (Cancer of the Larynx)

Laryngeal cancer includes cancerous cells found in any part of the larynx - the glottis, the supraglottis, or the subglottis.


Melanoma is a disease of the skin in which cancer cells are found in the melanocytes, the cells that produce color in the skin or pigment known as melanin.

Merkel Cell Cancer

Merkel cell cancer is also known as neuroendocrine cancer of the skin, or trabecular cancer.

Oral Cancer

Oral cancer is cancer found in the oral cavity (the mouth area) and the oropharynx (the throat area at the back of the mouth).

Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is a malignant tumor that grows in the skin cells and accounts for more than 50 percent of all cancers.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Squamous cell skin cancer (sometimes referred to as non-melanoma carcinoma) may appear as nodules, or as red, scaly patches of skin.

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