Thoracic Program

Specialists in the Department of Radiation Oncology's Thoracic Program treat patients with lung and esophageal cancers and other tumors of the chest using the latest radiation therapies.

Our Approach

Our radiation oncologists treat thousands of patients each year. In the Thoracic Program, our radiation oncologists have dedicated their careers to studying lung cancer, esophageal cancer and other thoracic (chest area) cancers. Due to this high degree of specialization, our patients always receive care from a physician with expertise in both radiation therapy and thoracic cancer medicine—a powerful combination.

Our clinical team treats cancers and tumors of the:

  • Lungs
  • Esophagus
  • Thymus
  • Trachea
  • Chest wall
  • Mesothelium (lining of lung and chest wall)

Innovating to Improve Patient Outcomes

We work closely with the Mass General Cancer Center, to develop and investigate advanced therapies and technologies used around the world to make treatment more effective and improve the quality of patients' lives.

Our breakthroughs in radiation therapy for thoracic cancers include:

  • 4D CT scanning and respiratory gating: Pioneered by our team, this imaging technology breakthrough enables us to plan more precise dosing of tumors in the lungs and esophagus by taking into account tumor motion associated with respiration. With the aid of 4D 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 radiotherapy planned based on conventional 3D CT scanning
  • Proton beam therapy for non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC): This breakthrough treatment has shown greater potential in protecting organs and tissues beyond the tumor region when compared with conventional photon therapy. We offer clinical trials for selected patients with NSCLC, both early-stage and locally advanced-stage
  • Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT): IMRT is one of the most advanced radiation technologies available to enhance tumor kill and maximize sparing of surrounding healthy tissues. Pioneered for the use in lung cancer at MGH in 2003, IMRT “paints” the radiation dose onto the tumor with pinpoint precision. Combined with other technological advances such as 4D CT scanning, multicriteria optimization, daily image guidance (IGRT), and adaptive planning we offer our patients a personalized, high-precision treatment approach that maximizes the likelihood of cure without   complications.
  • Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT): Our Thoracic SBRT Program was implemented in 2008 to provides patients with early-stage NSCLC with a specialized type of radiation therapy that pinpoints high doses of radiation directly on the cancer.  Because of high precision SBRT generally has little if any side effects. Treatments are typically given in 3-10 sessions over 1-2 weeks, which is much shorter than traditional forms of radiation therapy where radiation is delivered in small daily doses over the course of several weeks. SBRT is also effective in the treatment of lung metastases and selected patients with locally advanced or recurrent NSCLC.
  • Molecular imaging: Current research led by Noah Choi, MD, is investigating glucose (sugar) metabolism in tumor cells and its response to radiotherapy or chemoradiotherapy as molecular biomarkers for measuring tumor response. Patients with residual glucose metabolism indicating incomplete tumor eradication after standard dose of radiation can be offered supplementary dose of radiation. This is an emerging new approach of personalized radiation treatments in terms of optimized radiation dose and volume for individual patients. This is based on the response of each patient’s cancer to radiotherapy, chemotherapy and medication.

Compassionate Care from Accomplished Specialists

A hallmark of our program is the compassionate care and individualized attention patients receive from our physicians, nurses and support staff. Every step of your treatment is managed by a single, dedicated and experienced radiation oncologist.

Our staff includes:

  • Noah Choi, MD, our program director, has practiced radiation oncology for over four decades. A pioneering researcher and educator, he has led research into novel radiation techniques and technologies for over 30 years and treats hundreds of patients with leading-edge therapies annually.
  • Henning Willers, MD, PhD, is a clinician-scientist with more than 20 years experience in radiation biology and mroe than 8 years of specialization in thoracic cancers. His research seeks to combine the latest advances in molecular targeted therapies with precision radiation therapy to increase the likelihood of cure without complications for our patients.

Personalized Care through Collaboration.

In the highly specialized Center for Thoracic Cancers, located in the Mass General Cancer Center, our radiation oncologists work side-by-side with your entire cancer treatment team. These world-class specialists may include medical oncologists, surgical oncologists, radiologists and pathologists. Our cross-specialty approach enables us to provide comprehensive care tailored to your needs.

What to Expect

Our team is dedicated to keeping you completely informed and encourages 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).

Basal Cell Carcinoma

Basal cell cancer, sometimes called non-melanoma skin cancer, usually appears as a small, fleshy bump or nodule on the head, neck, or hands. Occasionally, these nodules appear on the trunk of the body, usually as flat growths.

Esophageal Cancer

Esophageal cancer is cancer that develops in the esophagus, the muscular tube that connects the throat to the stomach.

Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is cancer that usually starts in the lining of the bronchi (the main airways of the lungs), but can also begin in other areas of the respiratory system, including the trachea, bronchioles, or alveoli.

Skin Cancer

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

Thyroid Tumors

Thyroid tumors are either benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous) growths.

The Katherine A. Gallagher Integrative Therapies Program

The Katherine A. Gallagher Integrative Therapies Program focuses on improving the quality of life and well-being of Cancer Center patients, their families and friends through free wellness services such as acupuncture and yoga. These services help you take care of your whole self — mind, body and spirit.

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.

The Katherine A. Gallagher Integrative Therapies Program

The Katherine A. Gallagher Integrative Therapies Program focuses on improving the quality of life and well-being of Cancer Center patients, their families and friends through free wellness services such as acupuncture and yoga. These services help you take care of your whole self — mind, body and spirit.

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