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The one hundred honoree: Henning Willers, MD

Profile in Medicine

The one hundred honoree: Henning Willers, MD

Mass General Giving

Always inquisitive and unfailingly compassionate, Henning Willers, MD, never loses sight of his goal to improve the lives of those with cancer.

As the director of Thoracic Radiation Oncology at Mass General, Dr. Willers has devoted his career to treating lung cancer and other thoracic malignancies. He is a clinician-scientist who works to identify ways to sensitize cancer cells to radiation and bring those findings forward into clinical practice. He has promoted the development of a precision radiation treatment program for lung cancer, and has identified new ways to improve treatment outcomes. He individualizes the treatment of each patient, focusing on the unique presentations of their cancers along with medical, social and other factors.

In addition to being an established scientist, Dr. Willers is a compassionate clinician who is extremely dedicated to his patients and their well-being. Colleague Melin Khandekar, MD, PhD, has “seen first hand how his commitment to patient care has translated into better outcomes for his patients.” Recently, he has helped pioneer efforts to reduce the toxicity of radiation, especially to the esophagus, and is exploring novel uses of radiation, such as eradicating minimal residual disease in patients with targetable mutations.

Dr. Willers has also impacted numerous peers, colleagues, mentees and trainees as they continue the fight against cancer. Helen Shih, MD, associate medical director of the Francis H. Burr Proton Therapy Center at Mass General, has seen this impact. “He is a role model for other physicians and scientists on how to have a vision, to work towards it as a team, and to inspire others along the way.”