Henning Willers, M.D.

Physician Investigator (Cl)
Radiology, Mass General Research Institute
Associate Professor of Radiation Oncology
Harvard Medical School
MD University of Hamburg School of Medicine 1994
carcinoma non-small-cell lung; dna repair; fanconi anemia complementation group d2 protein; fibroblasts; lung cancer; lung neoplasms; proton beam therapy; rad51 recombinase; radiation response; radiation tolerance; radiosurgery; stereotactic body radiation therapy

Research efforts in Dr. Willers' laboratory are mainly directed at furthering our understanding of how non-small cell lung cancers respond to radiation treatments and radiosensitizing drugs.

The underlying clinical problem is that lung cancers tend to be difficult to eradicate by radiation therapy, owing to large size and biological characteristics. Therefore, novel treatment approaches are needed to overcome lung cancer radioresistance.

There are three major focus areas:

  1. Elucidate mechanisms of genotype-correlated radioresistance in lung cancer, and identify biological targets to overcome that resistance.
  2. Develop a precision radiation medicine screening platform for testing of novel radiosensitizing drugs in genomically characterized cancer cell lines and identification of genomic biomarkers.
  3. Target DNA repair pathways in lung and other cancers, in order to personalize DNA damaging therapies that include standard and proton radiation.

Dr. Willers' clinical research activities focus on:

  1. Using proton beam radiation therapy in lung cancer to improve therapeutic efficacy and sparing of normal organs.
  2. Developing personalized, high-precision radiation treatment approaches for tumors in the chest (http://www.massgeneral.org/radiationoncology/IMART.aspx).
  3. The application of stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) in patients with early-stage and metastatic NSCLC as well as lung metastases.

Dr. Willers' long-term goal is to contribute to the realization of "personalized" curative cancer therapy.