Treatment for lung and thoracic cancers at Mass General

Lung Cancer Treatment Program

The Center for Thoracic Cancers offers patients and families access to one of New England's most experienced programs for lung cancer.
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At the Center for Thoracic Cancers, our multidisciplinary team of lung cancer specialists put together a comprehensive treatment plan just for you. Many lung patients benefit from our approach. You will see lung cancer specialists from medical oncology, radiation oncology and surgery. We:

  • Offer a collaborative approach to lung cancer diagnosis and treatment
  • Provide care and support tailored to each patient’s needs
  • Combine clinical expertise, cutting-edge research and medical technologies to offer patients the most appropriate therapies
  • Ensure patients fully understand their diagnosis and treatment options
  • View patients and their family and friends involved in their care as team members

Patients are usually seen within one week of referral.

Innovative Approaches

The Center for Thoracic Cancers is among the first in the nation to provide new targeted therapies for non-small cell lung cancer. Consistently ranked as one of the best in the country by U.S. News & World Report, we provide the promising new therapies and innovative approaches to clinical care, including:

  • Expertise in minimally invasive surgery for lung cancer, including lung-sparing techniques
  • Genotyping (molecular fingerprinting) to determine which lung cancers carry genetic mutations that might be treated with targeted therapies
  • Rapid diagnosis and staging of all biopsied tumors by pathologists who specialize in lung cancer
  • Groundbreaking research regarding the molecular basis of some lung cancers
  • The Francis Burr Northeast Proton Therapy Center, New England’s only proton radiation facility
  • Access to one of New England’s only Advanced Endoscopy Services

Expertise in Diagnosing and Staging Lung Cancer

All members of our team of pathologists and radiologists are nationally recognized for their expertise. Our pathologists participate in weekly tumor board meetings, sharing information about each patient’s unique cancer with the entire team to help guide care planning. Our radiologists use the most advanced imaging tools to diagnose and stage thoracic cancers and to detect changes in tumors. Our imaging methods include:

  • Chest radiograph
  • Computed tomography scan (CT or CAT scan)
  • MRI
  • PET and nuclear medicine scans

Our minimally invasive image-guided procedures for diagnosis include:

    • Percutaneous needle biopsy and molecular diagnostic tests
    • Esophageal ultrasound
    • Navigation bronchoscopy for biopsy of peripheral lung nodules

Advancing Medical Oncology

Some new cancer drugs currently available or in development are designed to block some of the mutations that cause tumors to grow. By targeting tumor gene mutations with these “smart drugs”, our doctors are beginning to understand how to destroy cancer cells in some patients' tumors without traditional chemotherapy and radiation.

We are among a select few centers in the world to offer comprehensive genotyping of thoracic cancers as part of our pathological assessment. Genotyping allows us to test each tumor for certain genetic mutations, which can reveal weaknesses in an individual’s cancer. We can exploit these weaknesses using targeted therapies. Understanding genetics of a tumor helps us choose the most effective treatment for a patient’s cancer.

Genotyping: Entering a New Era Treating Lung Cancer Care

We are among a select few health care institutions in the world to offer comprehensive genotyping of thoracic cancers as a routine component of our pathological assessment. This genotyping allows us to test each tumor for certain genetic mutations. These genetic markers indicate certain weaknesses in an individual’s cancer; weaknesses that we can exploit using targeted therapies. By understanding the genetics behind each lung tumor we are able to choose the specific type of treatment that will be most effective for that particular patient’s cancer. Learn more about genotyping.


Excellence in Surgical Care

Our team of dedicated surgeons treats some of the most challenging and complex cases from across the US. We focus only on thoracic surgery and have pioneered many now-standard procedures used to treat thoracic cancers. The team provides state-of-the-art evaluation, treatment and post-surgical services, including:

  • Chest and airway reconstruction
  • Laser surgery
  • Minimally invasive video-assisted thorascopic surgery
  • Resection of tumors in the chest wall, lungs and mediastinum
  • Lung-sparing techniques for benign and malignant neoplasms of the lung
  • Resection of tumors obstructing a bronchus or in the trachea

We offer many minimally invasive surgical procedures, such as:

  • Bronchoscopy to explore the bronchial passages
  • Navigation bronchoscopy to biopsy peripheral lung nodules or placement of radiosurgical markers to enhance tracking of the lung tumors during radiation treatment
  • Esophagoscopy to sample lymph nodes around the airway or lung
  • Mediastinoscopy to explore the area between the lungs and nearby lymph nodes
  • Thoracoscopy to explore the thorax
  • Esophageal endoscopic ultrasound
  • Endobronchial ultrasound

Pioneering Radiation Therapy Programs

Specialists in the Thoracic Radiation Oncology Program employ 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. Pioneering technological advances for the benefit of our patients include:

  • Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) and Volumetric Modulated Arc Therapy (VMAT) for reducing side effects and improving tumor kill
  • Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT) for the treatment of early stage lung cancers and increasingly also metastatic cancers
  • 4-dimensional (4D) CT scanning and respiratory gating for treatment of lung tumors that move around with breathing
  • Proton beam therapy in patients with certain lung cancers

Our radiation oncologists are part of a highly specialized multidisciplinary team that closely coordinates the care of each patient. Cutting-edge research aims at increasing the efficacy and reducing the side effects of radiation therapy as well as integrating radiation with revolutionizing biological drug therapies.

For more information, please see the Thoracic Radiation Oncology Program.


Meet the Team

Our team approach ensures that every patient benefits from a personalized, coordinated and compassionate treatment plan that includes leading experts across many specialties.

Members of your care team meet regularly with you and contact your referring physician on an ongoing basis to ensure clear communication and a seamless coordination of care.


See the complete team list treating Lung Cancer

Patient Education

Information About Lung Cancer

Cancer that begins in any part of the lungs is called lung cancer. The two basic types of lung cancer are non-small cell lung cancer and small cell lung cancer. There is also a third type of lung cancer that is very rare, called mesothelioma.

The American Cancer Society estimated that about 222,500 new cases of lung cancer (both non-small cell and small cell) would be diagnosed in the United States in 2017. It is important to remember that great strides have been made in our understanding of lung cancer. Ways to treat lung cancer have advanced even from just a few years ago.

Lung Cancer Diagnosis

While you are being evaluated for a diagnosis of lung cancer you may undergo:

  • Medical history and physical exam
  • X-rays
  • Computed tomography (CT)
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scan
  • Biopsy

Lung Surgery

Surgery for lung cancer may involve removal of:

  • A tumor and some nearby healthy tissue (wedge resection)
  • Part of a bronchus, the main airways of the lungs (sleeve resection)
  • An entire section of a lung (lobectomy)
  • An entire lung (pneumonectomy)

Non-surgical Lung Cancer Treatments

Other common treatment options for lung cancer include the following:

  • Immunotherapy uses your own immune cells to destroy cancer cells
  • Chemotherapy kills cancer cells through the use of intravenous (IV) or oral drugs
  • Targeted therapy uses drugs that attack specific parts of cancer cells, depending on if you have a genetic mutation and what type of mutation it is
  • Radiation therapy uses high-energy radiation beams to kill or shrink a tumor while saving healthy tissue
  • Clinical trials may provide access to new and promising therapies for lung cancer

Learn more about Lung Cancer


Clinical Trials/Research

Overview of Clinical Trials

Clinical trials are research studies which are conducted to answer questions. They can test many things including new drugs, new combinations of drugs, or already approved drugs being studied to treat patients in new or different ways. They may include new drug doses or new ways (schedules) to give the drugs. Clinical trials are run under strict guidelines with specific criteria for eligibility and treatment. Their purpose is to help find out whether new cancer treatments are safe and effective or better than the standard (current) treatment.

The Mass General Hospital Thoracic Oncology Program has a very active clinical research portfolio with the latest, top-notch investigational studies covering a wide spectrum of thoracic cancer care. The ultimate goal of clinical research is to improve the outcomes for all of our patients. If you are eligible for a clinical trial, your physician will offer you the chance for participation. We will comprehensively review the logistics and purpose of the trial and also offer alternatives including the standard of care.

Find Clinical Trials for Lung Cancer

Find Targeted Therapy Trials for Lung Cancer

The Cancer Center also offers the Lazarex-MGH Cancer Care Equity Program, which strives to promote awareness about and access to cancer clinical trials through community outreach and education, financial assistance, and patient navigation. Learn more about the Lazarex program.


Watch Dr. Alice Shaw discuss two recent studies on next-generation ALK inhibitors for ALK-positive lung cancer patients.

MGH Thoracic Oncology Program at the 2017 ASCO Annual Meeting

The 2017 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting took place in Chicago, IL, between June 2-6, 2017. The MGH Thoracic Oncology Program was well represented across multiple platforms:

  • Christopher (Jerry) Azzoli, MD, was an invited speaker during the lung cancer education session. He gave a talk entitled “Challenges in thoracic pathology: How I approach mixed histologies and differentiating metastasis in the chest from second primaries”.
  • Ibiayi Dagogo-Jack, MD, was the first-author of two poster presentations, entitled “Retrospective analysis of clinical outcomes of early stage ALK-positive non-small cell lung cancer” and “Genomic profiling of circulating tumor DNA from patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer”.
  • Anna Farago, MD, PhD, discussed the “Clinicopathologic features of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) harboring an NTRK gene fusion” during the tumor biology poster session.
  • Justin Gainor, MD, chaired the education session entitled “Managing resistance to targeted therapies”. During this session, he also presented on the topic of “ALK inhibitor resistance: Mechanisms and therapeutic approaches”.
  • Zofia Piotrowska, MD, gave a poster presentation entitled “MET amplification as a resistance mechanism to osimertinib,” which was selected for the poster discussion session.
  • Alice Shaw, MD, PhD, presented in the oral abstract session for non-small cell lung cancer, presenting the findings from the Global Phase III ALEX study: “Alectinib versus crizotinib in treatment-naïve advanced ALK positive non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC)”. She was also the chair and speaker of the education session entitled: “Is tissue still the issue? Pathology issues in thoracic oncology”.
  • Jennifer Temel, MD, was an invited panelist during the post-plenary discussion session on health services research.

MGH Thoracic Oncology Program at the 2017 AACR Annual Meeting

The 2017 AACR Annual Meeting was held in Washington, D.C., on April 1-5, 2017. The MGH Thoracic Oncology Program was represented in several research presentations, including the following:

  • Anna Farago, MD, PhD, gave a clinical trials plenary session presentation, entitled “Phase 1/2 study of olaparib tablets and temozolomide in patients with small cell lung cancer (SCLC) following failure of prior chemotherapy”.
  • Alice Shaw, MD, PhD, gave a plenary session presentation, entitled “Drug resistance: Tailoring therapies to mechanisms to improve outcomes”. In addition, she served as a panelist in the discussion of “Optimizing the sequence of anticancer therapies”.

Honors & Awards

Thoracic Medical Oncology team the one hundred honorees

View thoracic oncology team members honored for their commitment to the fight against cancer.

Dr. Dagogo-Jack presented with Merit Award by the Conquer Cancer Foundation

Ibiayi Dagogo-Jack, MD, was selected for the Merit Award by the Conquer Cancer Foundation. This award recognizes her research on the topic of early-stage ALK-positive lung cancer. Her work will be presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting in Chicago, IL. Congratulations, Ibiayi!

Dr. Temel selected as MGH Research Scholar by the Executive Committee on Research (ECOR)

Jennifer Temel, MD, was granted the MGH research scholar award, an ECOR faculty award. This program recognizes outstanding MGH research faculty pursuing research. Congratulations, Jennifer!

Dr. Piotrowska awarded the American Cancer Society-Institutional Research Grant by MGH

Zofia Piotrowska, MD, was honored with the American Cancer Society Institutional Research Grant (ACS IRG) by MGH. The ACS IRG grant is a competitive research award that supports promising new cancer research by junior faculty members. Congratulations, Zosia!

Dr. Jessica Lin presented with the PrIME Oncology Young Investigator Award

Jessica J. Lin, MD, was presented with the Young Investigator Award by PrIME Oncology, recognizing her research in ALK- and ROS1-rearranged lung cancers. Congratulations, Jessica!

Dr. Temel presented with the 2017 “Award for Excellence in Scientific Research in Palliative Care” by the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine

Jennifer Temel, MD was presented with the prestigious 2017 “Award for Excellence in Scientific Research in Palliative Care” by the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine (AAHPM) for her many contributions to the scientific research in the field of hospice and palliative care. Dr. Temel is the fourteenth awardee to be presented with this annual designation, and is recognized for her dedication and accomplishments in palliative care research. Congratulations, Jennifer!


If you have any questions or would like to speak with one of our doctors, please call the Center for Thoracic Cancers at 617-724-4000.

Request an Appointment Request a Remote Second Opinion

Talk to an access nurse today 877-726-5130

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