Thomas Bortfeld, PhD

Chief of Physics Division
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Address: Massachusetts General Hospital
Department of Radiation Oncology
100 Blossom Street
Boston MA, 02114
Phone: (617) 724-1180

Education and Degrees

MS (Diploma): University of Heidelberg , Germany, 1988, Physics
Ph.D.: University of Heidelberg , Germany, 1990, Applied Physics
Habilitation: University of Heidelberg, Germany, 1995, Physics

Areas of Interest

  • Optimization, Multi-Criteria Optimization
  • Therapy Imaging
  • Proton Radiotherapy
  • Dynamics of Cancer Treatment

Recent Honors

Alfred Breit Award, DEGRO (German Society for Radiation Oncology), 2015 (For work on IMRT)

Science Award: Research Networks, Fraunhofer Society, 2016 (For work on multi-criteria optimization in radiation therapy, with colleagues from Fraunhofer ITWM) 

Honorary Professor, University of Freiburg, Germany, 2017

Recent Keynote Lectures

DEGRO annual meeting, Hamburg, Germany, 2015

Giersch symposium, Frankfurt Institute of Advanced Studies (FIAS), Germany, 2017  

Review Talks

Harvard Applied Physics Colloquium: Physics against Cancer 

In the News

  1. A pioneering approach to cancer treatment
  2. Targeting tumours
  3. Proton therapy teams up with PET imaging
  4. Fighting cancer with mathematics

Selected Recent Publications (total of more than 150 peer-reviewed papers)


  • Bortfeld TR, Loeffler JS. Three ways to make proton therapy affordable. Nature. 2017 Sep 25; 549(7673):451-453. PMID: 28959981.
  • Gorissen BL, Unkelbach J, Bortfeld TR. Mathematical Optimization of Treatment Schedules. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 2016 Sep 01; 96(1):6-8. PMID: 27511841.
  • Craft D, Khan F, Young M, Bortfeld T. The Price of Target Dose Uniformity. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 2016 Nov 15; 96(4):913-914. PMID: 27788961.
  • Baumann M, Krause M, Overgaard J, Debus J, Bentzen SM, Daartz J, Richter C, Zips D, Bortfeld T. Radiation oncology in the era of precision medicine. Nat Rev Cancer. 2016 Apr; 16(4):234-49. PMID: 27009394.
  • Yan S, Lu HM, Flanz J, Adams J, Trofimov A, Bortfeld T. Reassessment of the Necessity of the Proton Gantry: Analysis of Beam Orientations From 4332 Treatments at the Massachusetts General Hospital Proton Center Over the Past 10 Years. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 2016 May 01; 95(1):224-33. PMID: 26611874.
  • Papp D, Bortfeld T, Unkelbach J. A modular approach to intensity-modulated arc therapy optimization with noncoplanar trajectories. Phys Med Biol. 2015 Jul 07; 60(13):5179-98. PMID: 26083759.
  • Unkelbach J, Bortfeld T, Craft D, Alber M, Bangert M, Bokrantz R, Chen D, Li R, Xing L, Men C, Nill S, Papp D, Romeijn E, Salari E. Optimization approaches to volumetric modulated arc therapy planning. Med Phys. 2015 Mar; 42(3):1367-77. PMID: 25735291.
  • Salari E, Unkelbach J, Bortfeld T. A mathematical programming approach to the fractionation problem in chemoradiotherapy. IIE Transactions on Healthcare Systems Engineering. 2015; 5(2):55-73.
  • Richter C, Seco J, Hong TS, Duda DG, Bortfeld T. Radiation-induced changes in hepatocyte-specific Gd-EOB-DTPA enhanced MRI: potential mechanism. Med Hypotheses. 2014 Oct; 83(4):477-81. PMID: 25175713.

Special Issues

  • Controversies in Proton Therapy. Brada M, Bortfeld T eds. Seminars in Radiation Oncology. 2013;23(2):75-153.
Located in: Leadership | Research