Head and Neck Program
Clark Center for Radiation Oncology
Vida E & Arthur L. Goldstein Lunder Building
55 Fruit Street
Lunder Building LL3
Boston, MA 02114
Explore the Head and Neck Program
The Head & Neck Radiation Oncology Program at Massachusetts General Hospital has a longstanding tradition of excellence with national and international leadership. Our 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 the Mass General Cancer Center and Massachusetts Eye and Ear.
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 may involve chemotherapy. We treat the complete range of head-and-neck cancers and other diseases, including:
- Cancers of the oral cavity, oropharynx, nasopharynx, larynx, and hypopharynx
- Nasal cavity and paranasal sinus cancers
- Skull base tumors
- Thyroid cancers
- Major and minor salivary glands tumors, malignant and benign
- Skin cancers affecting the eye, face, ear, and scalp
- Cancers of the orbit and lacrimal system
- Rare and complex tumors (e.g. adenoid cystic carcinoma, esthesioneuroblastoma, and sinonasal carcinoma)
Commitment to Innovation
In the 1970s, Mass General’s C.C. Wang, 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:
- Linear accelerator-based radiation therapy: Utilizing a variety of technological treatment planning including 3D conformal radiation therapy, intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), and volumetric modulated arc radiotherapy (VMAT).
- Proton therapy: The dosimetric advantage of proton therapy allows the sparing of surrounding normal tissues while delivering high radiation dose to the target. Proton therapy is used to treat a variety of benign and malignant diseases in which patients are expected to derive a significant clinical benefit over other alternative therapy.
- High-dose rate interstitial brachytherapy: In interstitial implants, the catheters are inserted through tissue to encompass the tumor. Six to ten treatments are given over a period of three to five days during which time the patient is hospitalized. This technique allows nearby critical structures to be spared from high dose of radiation.
- Surface mold high-dose rate brachytherapy: In surface mold brachytherapy, catheters are inserted through the custom surface molds that are laid on the treatment areas. This non-invasive technique is particularly good for superficial irregular targets such as skin cancer of the scalp. It allows rapid dose fall-off and normal tissue sparing.
- Adaptive radiation therapy (ART): To improve precision of radiation delivery, ART has been in use clinically in recent years. Adaptive plans which accommodate patient-specific changes that are unaccounted for in initial plan are generated during treatment.
- Imaging-guided radiation therapy (IGRT): In all our treatment machines, cone-beam CT modes are integrated with automated repositioning and motion management visualization software. The 3-dimensional cone-beam CT images allow tumor sites to be pinpointed, adjust patient positioning when necessary, and complete a treatment - all within the standard treatment time slot.
- 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.
- Clinical trials: We have ongoing National Cancer Institute-supported clinical trials on a variety of head and neck cancers including oropharyngeal cancer, nasopharyngeal cancer, and thyroid cancer.
Comprehensive Clinical Care
We provide comprehensive clinical care excellence in managing the full spectrum of benign and malignant tumors of the head and neck. Due to the technological advancements within the department, we can offer the best radiotherapeutic treatment options that are tailored to an individual case. In addition, our patient care is in collaboration with multidisciplinary groups such as medical oncology and head and neck surgery. We have outstanding clinical resources within head and neck radiology, head and neck pathology, cancer psychology, pain and palliative services, speech and swallow specialists. There are numerous other patient-centric support services such as social work, massage therapy, acupuncture, support group, and nutrition consultations that complement our immediate radiation services and are directly accessible through our department.
Massachusetts General Hospital invites patients and the community to participate in innovative clinical trials and research studies.
Meet the Team
Planning 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.
This pdf describes what you can expect before and during your radiation treatments.
Browse our online guides to visualize steps throughout the radiation oncology process.