Photo of happy, healthy child

Proton Therapy for Children

Mass General and the Department of Radiation Oncology have played a critical role in the development and refinement of proton radiotherapy. We have one of the largest pediatric programs in the world and have treated well over 1,600 children. We are the only proton center in New England, and an international referral center for pediatric radiation oncology.

Contact the Department of Radiation Oncology at: 617-724-1836

Support Our Research Reach us through Patient Gateway


The Francis H. Burr Proton Therapy Center at MGH, sculpture created by Aidan for Brick Fest Live LEGO® Fan Experience, April 2019

Mass General Hospital for Children’s Department of Radiation Oncology provides radiation therapy to treat a variety of tumors in children using the most current techniques available. The Mass General Department of Radiation Oncology was the first proton center in the United States to pioneer proton radiotherapy in the pediatric population and has been treating children with fractionated proton radiotherapy since 1974.

The goal of radiation therapy is to destroy or shrink tumor cells without damaging surrounding healthy tissue, often together with surgery and/or chemotherapy depending on the tumor that we are treating.

Radiation plans are custom designed for each patient in order to target the tumor with maximum sparing of healthy tissue. At Mass General we have access to many types of radiation including photons, electrons, and protons. Proton therapy is the most common form of radiation used to treat pediatric patients at Mass General.

An integral part of one of the world’s most distinguished medical centers, Mass General’s Francis H. Burr Proton Therapy Center represents the forefront of technological advances in radiation therapy coupled with expert, comprehensive, and compassionate family-centered care. We employ image guidance with all of our proton treatments and use both passively scattered 3D conformal proton radiotherapy as well as pencil beam scanning. Proton radiosurgery is also readily available. Proton radiation therapy is unique, because more than any other type of radiation, protons allow radiation to be directed to a very limited area, which reduces potential damage to nearby healthy tissues. This is particularly useful for certain tumor types in children where long-term effects on growth and development are very important. Children’s bodies are more vulnerable to the effects of radiation, so any healthy tissue that can be spared becomes vital.

In addition to proton therapy, MassGeneral Hospital for Children also provides state-of-the-art stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS), stereotactic radiation therapy (SRT), and intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT). In all types of radiation, our radiation oncologists work with clinical physicists to bring the latest technological developments to our patients, from respiratory or cardiac gating, to cone-beam CT, and adaptive radiotherapeutic planning. Treatment plans are created using the most advanced computing and imaging techniques. Our radiation oncologists and physicists have access to a complete array of devices to carefully administer radiation to target tissues while minimizing radiation exposure to uninvolved tissue.

Multidisciplinary Treatment for Complex Diagnoses

We understand that having a sick child is stressful for the child, parents, siblings and other family members. It is our goal to provide the highest quality care, while considering the unique needs of children with cancer and their families. For this reason, we have a multidisciplinary team approach. Our experienced and dynamic team includes specialists in pediatric oncology, pediatric radiation oncology, pediatric surgery, pediatric neurosurgery, pediatric neuroradiology, pediatric neurology, pediatric anesthesia, pediatric rehabilitation, pediatric nursing, social work, child life, and other support staff. Massachusetts General Hospital is home to the Katherine Gallagher Integrative Therapies Program which offers wellness services, free of charge, including music, art, massage, and acupuncture. These wonderful activities are open to patients and their families.

Pediatric Oncology: The doctors in the Division of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology at MassGeneral Hospital for Children are our close partners in caring for our pediatric patients who come for proton radiotherapy, since many require chemotherapy during radiation treatment. Our pediatric colleagues provide personalized multidisciplinary, state-of-the-art care to children of all ages.

Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital has a 12-bed private room pediatric unit which regularly treats our children who are in need of intensive inpatient rehabilitation. Commonly, children will be getting intensive rehabilitation while still getting their daily radiation treatments. The clinicians at Spaulding are experts in Posterior Fossa Syndrome as well as other neurological effects that can track with brain and spinal cord tumors. One parent at a time may stay overnight for as long as needed, and we have a welcoming visitation policy for family members, siblings and peers.

MassGeneral Hospital for Children Inpatient Facilities: Children admitted to the hospital for an overnight visit will stay in the Ellison Building at MassGeneral Hospital for Children. General medical and surgical-care patients stay on the 17th or 18th floor, complete with child- and adolescent-friendly rooms, playrooms and lounges. Each room also is equipped with a bathroom, shower and television. Laptop computers and game consoles also are available on inpatient floors. Each floor has a kitchen and laundry services for extended stays. Parents may stay overnight with their child in the room. See a video introduction to Ellison 17or Ellison 18, including who’s who on staff and accommodations for parents and guardians staying overnight with children.

State-of-the-Art Facilities in a World-Renowned Academic Medical Center

The Francis H. Burr Proton Therapy Center at Massachusetts General Hospital is the original proton therapy center in the United States. The proton radiation program builds on more than forty years of pioneering work and experience gained by physicians, physicists, researchers and clinical support staff at Harvard University’s Cyclotron Laboratory. In the 1960’s, the Harvard Cyclotron Laboratory was one of the world’s first facilities to explore the use of protons in the treatment of patients with cancer. More than 9,000 patients were treated from 1961 to its closing in 2002. Fully operational in 2001, the new proton facility, the Francis H. Burr Proton Therapy Center, was made possible by funding from Massachusetts General Hospital and the National Cancer Institute. Additionally, due to the success of the proton radiotherapy program, we will be opening a fourth proton treatment room in Summer 2019.

Conditions Treated

Treatment is available for pediatric brain tumors including:

  • Medulloblastoma and PNET (primitive neuroectodermal tumor)
  • Ependymoma
  • Craniopharyngioma
  • Low and high grade gliomas (including pilocytic astrocytomas and other astrocytic varients)
  • Central nervous system germ cell tumors (including germinoma)
  • Other more rare pediatric brain tumors

As well as other pediatric tumors outside of the central nervous system including:

  • Rhabdomyosarcoma
  • Bone sarcomas
    • Ewing’s sarcoma
    • Osteosarcoma
  • Neuroblastoma
  • Retinoblastoma
  • Hodgkin’s lymphoma and other lymphomas
  • Other rare pediatric tumors that may benefit from proton radiotherapy

Please visit the National Cancer Institute for more information about cancer in children and adolescents.

Compassionate, Family-Centered Care

At Mass General Hospital for Children, we know that the time of your child’s diagnosis and treatment is a very stressful one, and we strive to provide an open, welcoming environment. We believe that no one knows a child as well as the parent does: parents, along with primary care providers, become our partners in a child’s care and have an active voice in all treatment plans.

We believe it is important to have a comfortable place to for families to call home if they need to temporarily relocate for the duration of treatment. We understand what a stressful and overwhelming time this often is. Our team can help you find a place to stay, set up a tutor, and learn your way around Boston.

Contact Us

Lego sculpture of MGH

MGH and the Francis H. Burr Proton Therapy Center, LEGO®sculpture created by Declan, Spring 2019 

Mass General Hospital for Children, Department of Radiation Oncology

Yawkey Center for Outpatient Care
Francis H. Burr Proton Therapy Center
30 Fruit Street
Boston, MA, 02114

  • Near Public Transit
  • Accessible
  • Phone: 617-724-1836
  • Fax: 617-724-4808

For prospective new patients:

If you're sending clinical information, please Fedex to:
Pediatric Radiation Oncology
Yawkey Center for Outpatient Care
Francis H. Burr Proton Therapy Center
30 Fruit Street, Room 107
Boston, MA 02114

For patients who will be starting treatment at MGH or are currently under treatment:

I need to speak with someone about….

Urgent medical issues:

  • Weekdays (7:00 am–5:30 pm): Call the Proton Center at 617-726-0923 and ask to speak with a nurse.
  • Weekends/After Hours: Call Pediatric Oncology at 617-726-2737 and ask to have the on-call physician paged.
  • For patients who have not yet started radiation therapy, please call your child’s local treating team.


My child’s new patient appointment schedule:
Please call the pediatric radiation oncology intake team at 617-724-1836.

Accommodations and transportation:
Please call American Cancer Society Patient Navigator Greta Gaeta at 617-643-1742. Also please refer to the Housing and Transportation tab for more information.

How my child is coping (and concerns about other life stressors my child may be facing):
Please call Clinical Social Worker Laura Dickman, LICSW at 617-726-8187 and Child Life Specialist Kaitlyn Wallace, CCLS at 617-643-9233.

How I (the caregiver) am coping (and concerns about other life stressors I am facing as a caregiver):
Please call Clinical Social Worker Laura Dickman, LICSW at 617-726-8187.

Meet the Team

What We Treat

What To Expect

LEGO® sculpture created by Declan, Spring 2019

What is Proton Radiation?

Proton radiation is unique in that it can be customized to maximize the radiation dose to the tumor while minimizing the dose to normal structures. It is especially advantageous for treating pediatric patients by targeting the tumor while minimizing radiation to nearby growing healthy tissue. Read more about proton radiation therapy here. In certain cases, the radiation oncologist may decide that photon radiation is more advantageous for your child’s treatment.

Where will we stay when we come to MGH for our initial new patient visits?

For short term accommodation information (1 week or less), please visit our overnight accommodations list.  Common short term housing options include MGH Beacon House & Annex, Hospitality Homes, and nearby hotels, all of which are listed on the overnight accommodations list.

For further assistance, please contact the MGH Oncology Resource Specialist at: (617) 724-0295.

What will happen on our first visit to the Proton Therapy Center and MGH?

You and your child will meet the pediatric radiation oncologist and other members of the team, such as our radiation oncology fellow/resident, a pediatric oncologist, a pediatric nurse, our pediatric neurologist, and our social worker and child life specialist. Your child will also have a CT simulation for radiation planning to design accurate radiation treatments, and other appointments for lab, radiology, or supportive services to help us comprehensively care for your child.

Here is a sample new patient schedule:


12 pm:    MRI brain


1:00 pm:   Consult with radiation oncologist and resident/fellow. Meet one of our pedi nurses.

2:30 pm:   Meet the social worker and child life specialist.

3:30 pm:   Consult with pediatric oncologist.


10:00 am:    Fitting for mask; CT simulation for radiation planning.

7-10 Days Later:   Start proton radiation treatments.

Prior to coming to MGH, you will receive a schedule of appointments from the Pediatric Proton Coordinator with details of these appointments, plus instructions and your team's contact info. If you have any questions upon receiving the schedule, please call (617) 724-1836.

What should we bring on our first visit to MGH?

Please bring the following to your new patient consultations:

  • CDs of any new scans performed outside MGH
  • Central line documentation (i.e.: port-a-cath card)
  • List of current medications/allergies
  • Recommended: additional caregiver to supervise patient/siblings

What is a CT Simulation?

To develop the treatment plan, the medical team will schedule your child for a CT simulation. This is a “rehearsal” for radiation treatment that is performed with a CT scan. Some scans require contrast to make certain organs more visible.

During the CT simulation, the patient is asked to lay down on the treatment table.  The radiation therapists then make small adjustments to straighten your child’s body. Depending upon the location of the treatment, a mask or mold may be made during the CT simulation. This exact position will be reproduced daily during radiation treatment to ensure accurate and precise delivery of proton therapy.  

Also, the radiation therapists may mark your child’s skin. These marks are small ink dots placed superficially under the skin. They will allow the radiation therapists to correctly position your child for each treatment.

Following the CT simulation, your radiation oncologist works with physicists to develop the treatment plan and any equipment needed for the radiation treatment to begin.  This entire process takes about 10 days and we schedule the radiation start date accordingly.

Is chemotherapy available at MGH?

Yes.  If your child will need either inpatient or outpatient chemotherapy, please let our coordinator know, so that we can schedule your child to see a pediatric oncologist during the first visit to MGH.

How can I talk with my child about their tumor and/or Proton Radiation?

Many families have questions about how to talk about radiation with their child receiving treatment, as well as with siblings.  It's important to be honest and talk with children in a way that is appropriate for their age and developmental stage. In doing this, children can lead the conversation and ask questions they feel they need answered. If you do not know the answer to a question, that is OK. You can offer to make a list of questions with your child that you can ask the care team together.

The social worker and child life specialist will meet with your family throughout treatment.  They can provide tips on language to use when talking with your children about diagnosis and treatment.

Additionally, we have a book written by a former social worker in the Proton Center that is available to families. This book uses both pictures and text to tell the story of Proton Radiation.

Preparing for the radiation treatment period

How can I arrange for tutoring services for my child while on treatment?


Students from anywhere in the U.S. who are unable to attend school for medical reasons are eligible for Home and Hospital Tutoring services. We refer families to a community agency called Signet Education, LLC for academic support while a child is undergoing radiation treatment.

Contact information:

Signet Education, LLC
Contact name: Rachel
Phone: (617) 714-5262
Address: 1132 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02138

Getting Started:

Families are asked to contact Signet Education, LLC directly to initiate services. We also ask a legal guardian to sign a written consent form for the MGH medical team to be able to provide necessary medical/treatment information to Signet Education, LLC to facilitate access to their services.

Families can access information about Signet Education, LLC’s medical tutoring services at: Parents/caregivers are asked to complete both online forms: (1) General Info Form; and (2) Release Waiver.

What should we bring to Boston with us when we relocate for our child’s radiation treatments?  Also, can I bring my other children?

Please bring the following:

  • Extended supply of medications
  • Feeding tube supplies (including extra tube)

You are welcome to bring your other children to Boston. Please note: if your child receiving treatment will be getting anesthesia, you will need a second adult to accompany your other children (or another child care plan). We are not able to accommodate siblings in the recovery room. Please reach out to the team with any questions or concerns.

Housing & Transportation

We understand that many families need to temporarily relocate during Proton Therapy.  The Oncology Resource Specialist (a member of the MGH Oncology Social Work team) can answer questions about transportation options and local lodging for patients and their families during treatment.  Contact the Oncology Resource Specialist at (617) 724-0295.

Listed below are options that have worked well for many families of children treated at the Proton Therapy Center. We have included some general information and requirements for each location to help you to identify the best option for your family.  You can also view the MGH Social Service Overnight Accommodations List.

We strongly recommend you begin the process of confirming housing as soon as you know your family will be coming to Boston for treatment. 

Pediatric Housing Options

Ronald McDonald House at Boston Harbor

Address: 250 First Ave #318, Charlestown, MA (2.1 miles from MGH)
Phone Number: (617) 398-6458
Price: No Fee
Accommodations: Fully-furnished and equipped private apartments with two or more beds for families of pediatric patients with shared spaced for programs and fun activities.
Parking: One free on-site parking spot; free shuttle to the hospital.

  • Patient must be 21 years old or younger
  • Patient must live greater than 40 miles from the Ronald McDonald House
  • Patient must be receiving treatment at least 2-3 times per week
  • Family must complete a Request to Stay form

Christopher's Haven

Address: One Emerson Place, Boston, MA (Adjacent to MGH)
Phone Number: (857) 233-4178
Price: $30 per night
Accommodations: Fully-furnished and equipped private apartments with two or more beds for families of pediatric patients with “The Loft” as a space for communal gatherings an
Parking: Free parking available upon request from Christopher’s Haven; once requested, parking is in the Government Center Garage

  • Patient must receive a minimum of four weeks’ outpatient pediatric cancer treatment
  • Primary caregiver must be at least 18 years of age and able communicate in English
  • Please contact Catie Botting, Family Services Manager, at or by calling (857) 233-4178

MGH at the Beacon House

Address: 19 Myrtle Street, Boston MA (5 blocks from MGH)
Phone Number: (617) 726-7679
Price: $69-$118 per night
Accommodations: Small studio with private bathroom and kitchen; MGH-affiliated facility
Parking: No on-site parking; parking available at MGH garages

  • Please call (617) 726-7679 to check availability

MGH at the Beacon House Annex

Address: 19 Myrtle Street, Boston MA (5 blocks from MGH)
Phone Number: (617) 726-7679
Price: $40-$50 per night
Accommodations: Private bedroom with a shared bathroom and kitchen; MGH-affiliated facility
Parking: No on-site parking, parking available at MGH garages.

  • Call at (617) 726-7679 to check availability

Hospitality Homes

Address: Location varies by placement
Phone Number: (888) 595-4678
Price: $25 per night (suggested donation)
Accommodations: Families are placed with host families who volunteer their home as a residence; amenities vary by location
Parking: Varies by location

  • Families must live a minimum of 50 miles from Boston
  • Hospitality Homes matches patients with host families
  • Application available online at or by calling (888) 595-4678 


Parking in the MGH garages is available at a special rate of $6 per day for patients here for radiation treatments.  Discounted passes can be purchased from the Proton Therapy Center front desk and you must purchase a minimum of two passes at a time.  Please note: this rate applies only on days when the patient has a scheduled radiation treatment.  The parking rate for other types of visits (physician appointments, follow-ups, etc.) is $14 per day.

Clinical Research

Pediatric radiation oncologists at the Francis H. Burr Proton Therapy Center are actively conducting clinical trials for pediatric cancer patients treated with proton therapy here at the Massachusetts General Hospital. While all of these trials are led by doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital, a number of these studies enroll patients from multiple hospitals across the country, thereby enhancing the cooperative nature of our research. Learn more.

Currently accruing trials:

Patient Stories


  • Tommy's Story

    Tommy's Story

    Tommy McGraw, 8 years old, received Proton Beam Therapy at Massachusetts General Hospital after having a brain tumor removed at their hometown hospital, Seattle Children’s Hospital.

  • MGH Proton Therapy Patients Celebrate the End of Treatment and Ring In 2011

    After completing weeks of treatment at Mass General Hospital's Francis H. Burr Proton Therapy Center, patients celebrate by ringing the bell three times and look forward to 2011.

  • Proton therapy video at MassGeneral Hospital for Children

    Proton Therapy: Applying Proton Radiation with Millimeter Precision

    The story of Will Craigle and his experience of being treated at MassGeneral Hospital or Children with cutting edge proton radiation technology for a brain tumor. This video also highlights other patients as well as the science behind proton radiation therapy.

  • Photo of doctor treating patient

    MGH Proton tour

    Follow a real proton therapy patient as he comes to the MGH Francis H Burr Proton Therapy Center and meets the team, and see how the radiation treatment process works behind the scenes.

  • photo of doctor treating patient

    MGH proton patient story

    Learn one young patient’s story and learn about how proton therapy actually works.

  • photo of proton therapy center

    MGH proton lead

    MGH is proud of our role in the past, present and future of proton radiation therapy. Learn more.

  • The panel included social work staff, nurses, and a patient's family.

    Kids Shadowing Kids: Pediatric Radiation Oncology Peer Mentoring Program

    The April 2018 Family Advisory Pediatric Grand Rounds focused on the Pediatric Radiation Oncology Peer Mentoring Program, featuring three amazing families, and the staff who participate in this collaboration on a daily basis.


  • Working Through Challenges to Create Her Future - 4/11/2019, Mass General

    Checking in with brain tumor survivor Emily Hayes from Plympton, MA. Emily is using both her experiences and talents to move herself through school and her future career.

  • NBC Connecticut: Old Saybrook Officers Wearing Shorts to Help 4-Year-Old Battle Cancer - 7/5/2018, Mass General

    Old Saybrook Police are wearing “Shorts4Sean” for MGH patient Sean MacDonnell, an Old Saybrook, Connecticut resident.

  • Tiny Tunes: Concert Celebrates Cancer Care's Completion - 5/24/2018, Mass General

    Guitars strummed and voices sang at an impromptu concert held at the MGH Francis H. Burr Proton Beam Therapy Center on Oct. 20. Led by pediatric patients Nathan and A.J., songs filled the waiting area celebrating A.J.'s completion of a long stretch of proton beam radiation.

  • Theo Evans: One night had the run of the Aquarium - 1/19/2018, Mass General

    Article in Boston Globe mentions MassGeneral Hospital for Children Pediatric Radiation program.

  • Heslam: Kid 'Stars' come out at night in aquarium - 5/26/2017, Mass General

    Article in Boston Herald mentions MassGeneral Hospital for Children Pediatric Radiation program.

  • Olivia Finds Inner Strength, Grace Through a Complex Diagnosis - 12/16/2016, Mass General

    For years, doctors could not determine why Olivia Renzi, 17, was growing so rapidly. She was much taller than other children her age and wasn’t developing normally. In 2013, her mother knew something wasn’t right, so she brought her then 14-year-old daughter to MGHfC. Olivia was diagnosed with gigantism, a rare growth disorder, but the diagnosis taught her to tap into a source of inner strength she didn't know she had.

  • Proton therapy controls common pediatric brain tumor with fewer long-term side effects - 1/29/2016, Research

    The use of proton radiotherapy to treat the most common malignant brain tumor in children is as effective as standard photon (x-ray) radiation therapy while causing fewer long-term side effects such as hearing loss and cognitive disorders, according to a study receiving online publication in Lancet Oncology.

  • Charlie's Story: Instilling Confidence Through a High Standard of Care - 11/20/2015, Mass General

    Charlie Beecher's family described the first two years of his life as joyously normal until Charlie developed belly pain. When they found out it was cancer, the Beechers brought Charlie to the Francis H. Burr Proton Therapy Center, which helped Charlie return to his normal, happy childhood.

  • Ryan's Story: Inspired by Compassionate Care to Achieve His Dreams - 9/21/2015, Mass General

    When Ryan Schlosser received his master's degree this year, he thought of everyone who supported him along the way, especially his care team at the Francis H. Burr Proton Therapy Center at MGHfC, who played a larger role in his success than he ever imagined.

  • Alex's Story: Family-Centered Care Helps Kids Be Kids Throughout Challenging Treatments - 9/2/2015, Mass General

    When Alex Sheehan was diagnosed with a brain tumor at age 10, staff at the Francis H. Burr Proton Therapy Center helped him simply be a kid during a challenging time.

  • Score! - 5/16/2014, Mass General

    Exuberant MassGeneral Hospital for Children patient Devin Cheeks, 14, rang the bell marking his final treatment at the Francis H. Burr Proton Therapy Center on May 7.

  • Going the distance - 4/20/2012, Mass General

    Crossing the finish line of a marathon is a feat in itself, but completing the race and supporting a good cause is a triumph times two.

  • MGH Proton Therapy Patients Celebrate the End of Treatment and Ring In 2011 - 6/10/2011, Mass General

    After completing weeks of treatment at Mass General Hospital's Francis H. Burr Proton Therapy Center, patients celebrate by ringing the bell three times and look forward to 2011.

  • Patients Find Mentors, Friends at Proton Center - 1/25/2011, Mass General

    Pediatric patients mentor one another to undergo proton therapy without anesthesia.

  • A second chance - 7/30/2010, Mass General

    MGH Hotline 07.30.10 Th efforts of three doctors at three separate institutions came together to forever change the life of one little boy living in a remote village in Haiti.

Contact the Department of Radiation Oncology at: 617-724-1836

Support Our Research Reach us through Patient Gateway

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