Thoracic Program

The Thoracic Radiation Oncology Program employs high-precision radiation therapy to treat patients with lung cancers and other cancers in the chest with the overarching goal of causing little or no side effects.

Overview

Our radiation oncologists have special expertise and experience in the treatment of:

  • Lung cancers (non-small cell lung carcinoma, small cell lung carcinoma)
  • Esophageal cancers
  • Less common cancers of the chest, including thymoma, tracheal cancer, mesothelioma
  • Brain metastases and other metastatic sites

As members of the Center for Thoracic Cancers in the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center, we closely work as a team with other health care providers, including medical oncologists and thoracic surgeons, to meet the needs of each and every one of our patients.

Improving Patient Outcomes through Technological Innovation

To provide the best treatments for our patients, we understand it’s not just about the radiation machines. It's about advanced radiation technologies, plus the people who bring them to our patients.

IMART+ is our advanced radiation technology program for IMRT (Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy) and VMAT (Volumetric Modulated Arc Therapy). A process called “multicriteria optimization”, pioneered by MGH physicists and first used in 2011, ensures that the best possible radiation treatment plan is found for each patient. This program benefits many patients with thoracic cancers by

  • reducing of the risk of severe irritation/inflammation of the esophagus (esophagitis)
  • reducing the risk of severe inflammation of the lungs (pneumonitis)
  • minimizing radiation dose to the heart
  • preserving memory function in the treatment of brain metastases
  • killing more tumor through the delivery of higher radiation doses

Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT). Implemented as the first linear accelerator-based SBRT program in the greater Boston area in 2008/09, we have developed special expertise in treating even the most difficult tumor locations in the lungs with few or no side effects. Increasingly, we use SBRT not only for the eradication of early stage non-small cell lung cancers but also in patients with advanced stage cancers in conjunction with chemotherapy or biological therapies.

4D CT scanning and respiratory gating. Pioneered by our team in the early 2000s, this imaging technology breakthrough enables us to plan more precise dosing of tumors in the lungs and esophagus by accounting for tumor motion associated with breathing. With the aid of 4D CT scanning, our research team refined the technique of respiratory gating, which delivers radiation to a tumor during a limited period of breathing cycle, such as the exhale phase. By doing so, we are able to treat the lung tumor with greater precision while sparing normal, surrounding tissue much better than with radiation therapy based on conventional 3D CT scanning.

Improving Patient Outcomes through Collaborative Research

All radiation oncology specialists in the Thoracic Program are actively involved in cutting-edge research aimed at improving treatment outcomes for our patients. In addition to technological advances to make radiation more effective and less toxic, we work closely with our colleagues in the Center for Thoracic Cancers to integrate radiation therapy with revolutionizing biological treatments, including immunotherapies. Our overarching goal is to increase the chance of cure without treatment complications even in patients suffering from advanced thoracic cancers.

Meet the Team

A hallmark of the Thoracic Program is the compassionate care and individualized attention patients receive from our physicians, nurses, and support staff. Every step of a patient’s treatment is managed by a dedicated and experienced radiation oncologist, in close collaboration with the multidisciplinary team of caretakers in the Center for Thoracic Cancers.

  • Henning Willers, MD

    Henning Willers, MD, Director of the Thoracic Program, is a clinician-scientist with more than 12 years of specialization in thoracic cancers and more than 20 years of experience in radiation biology. Special clinical and research interests include IMRT, SBRT, and precision radiation medicine.

  • Melin J. Khandekar, MD, PhD

    Melin J. Khandekar, MD, PhD, attending radiation oncologist, is a clinician-scientist with special clinical interests in SBRT, SRS, and the management of brain metastases.

  • Florence (Katie) Keane, MD

    Florence (Katie) Keane, MD, attending radiation oncologist, has broad clinical interests that include the integration of radiation with biological therapies including immunotherapy and its benefits in the treatment of metastatic cancers.

  • Noah C. Choi, MD

    Noah C. Choi, MD, former Director, has practiced thoracic radiation oncology for over four decades. A pioneering researcher and educator, he has led research into novel radiation techniques and treatments for over 30 years.

Intimately involved in patient care are also physicians from our nationally leading residency training program and our dedicated nursing staff, including Brittany Durgin RN, and Gina Coughlin, RN.

Patient Education

We encourage you to ask us about any step in the treatment process, from understanding the safety of your therapy to managing side effects. The answers to many frequently asked questions also appear in Your Guide to Radiation Therapy (PDF).

Clinical Trials

Massachusetts General Hospital invites patients and the community to participate in innovative clinical trials and research studies.

Search open clinical trials.

Contact

Contact Us

Clark Center for Radiation Oncology

Vida E & Arthur L. Goldstein Lunder Building

55 Fruit StreetLunder Building LL3 Boston, MA 02114
  • Near Public Transit
  • Accessible
  • Phone: 617-726- 8651
  • Fax: 857-238-6377
  • Email Us

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

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