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“Patients receive the best multidisciplinary care and access to novel
therapies because we’re at the forefront of brain tumor research.”
Tracy Batchelor, MD, MPH, executive director of the Pappas Center
Tumor Cells
Abnormal DNA in
brain tumor cells.
Pappas Center @ MGH
Neuro-Oncology @ MGHNeurosurgery @ MGHNeurology @ MGHRadiation Oncology @ MGH


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How do you solve a jigsaw puzzle, ride a bicycle or remember the smell of roses? How do you keep breathing when you are asleep? The brain orchestrates it all. Yet even the maestro of the body, like the organs it directs, is vulnerable to cancer. When brain tumors develop, patients need all the options that medicine can offer. The world-renowned physician-scientists at the Stephen E. and Catherine Pappas Center for Neuro-Oncology at the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center are discovering new therapies every year to achieve the best outcomes and quality of life for people with brain tumors.
Technology inthe OR
At the Pappas Center, experts from the Departments of Neurosurgery, Radiation Oncology, Pathology and the Division of Neuro Oncology work together to provide comprehensive care for adults with tumors of the nervous system as well as the neurological complications of cancer. The center is a national leader in translating research discoveries from the laboratory into new clinical therapeutics for malignant brain tumors. It also runs one of the few National Cancer Institute-sponsored research fellowship programs in the country dedicated to training future generations of neuro-oncologists.
“Patients receive the best multidisciplinary care and access to novel therapies because we’re at the forefront of brain tumor research,” says Tracy Batchelor, MD, MPH, executive director of the Pappas Center. That research has yielded innovations across the therapeutic spectrum — from new radiation technologies and surgical techniques to medical treatments using molecularly targeted drugs.


Although radiation is the standard treatment for brain tumors, not all radiation departments offer the same expertise. Specialization, says Jay Loeffler, MD, chief of the Department of Radiation Oncology at Massachusetts General Hospital and Herman and Joan Suit Professor of Radiation Oncology at Harvard Medical School, is what distinguishes his department from others in the country. “We have specialists in adult malignant brain tumors, adult benign tumors, skull base tumors, and pediatric brain tumors.”
Loeffler himself is an international leader in the field of brain tumor radiation. “We also have the most sophisticated technology,” he adds, “and it’s adapted specifically for brain tumors.” Loeffler is referring to technology available at the Francis H. Burr Proton Therapy Center at the Cancer Center, which treats both adults and children with brain tumors. Proton therapy targets beams of charged particles (protons) at tumors, especially those situated near critical brain structures, such as the centers for speech and movement. During therapy, proton beams from multiple directions pass through custom-made openings that correspond to the unique shape of the tumor, as determined by three-dimensional MRI and CT scans. Other devices control the penetration of protons so that the greatest amount of the therapeutic dose falls within the tumor, where the protons are absorbed. “Unlike X-rays, protons enter tissue, hit the target, and stop,” explains Loeffler. “For benign tumors and certain tumors of the skull base, proton therapy is clearly superior to X-ray therapy.” Unlike the few other proton therapy centers in the country, he adds, “We specialize in specific disease sites, which is enormously important.”
Brain cancer is relatively rare, with 20,500 new cases in 2007.
Prognosis and treatment vary greatly based on patient age and tumor grade.
Brain tumors are easier to treat or even cure in children than in adults.
Glioma, one common form of brain cancer, also has various subtypes, including glioblastoma.
Glioblastoma, the most aggressive glioma and most common brain cancer in adults, strikes 10,000 new patients a year in the U.S.
Advancing the Specialized Care of Individuals with Brain Tumors
US News Home


MGH Brain Tumor Center
Yawkey Building 9th Floor
Boston, Massachusetts,  02114
Patients & Families with questions about referrals, consultations or appointments may contact:
Telephone: 617.724.8770
Fax: 617.724.8769


Physicians with
questions may contact:
Tracy Batchelor, M.D.
Executive Director,
MGH Brain Tumor Center
Harvard Medical School
Mass General Hospital
MGH Cancer Center
Proton Beam Treatment
“We have the most sophisticated technology, proton beam therapy, and it’s adapted specifically for brain tumors.”
Jay Loeffler, MD
Chief, Department of
Radiation Oncology
NS @ MGHNS Diagnosis @ MGH
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