Photo of William Pirl,  MD, MPH

William Pirl, MD, MPH

Massachusetts General Hospital

Massachusetts General Hospital
Phone: (617) 724-9151

William Pirl, MD, MPH

Massachusetts General Hospital


  • Associate Professor, Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School
  • Director, Center for Psychiatric Oncology and Behavioral Sciences, Massachusetts General Hospital


Research Abstract

My research focuses on the influences of mood on cancer outcomes, particularly survival and end-of-life care. The research spans from the molecular level (association of tumor genotypes with depression) to influences on oncologists' treatment decisions.

I also am the PI of grants that focus on educational interventions for oncology nurses and other oncology clinicians.


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  • Greer JA, MacDonald JJ, Vaughn J, Viscosi E, Traeger L, McDonnell T, Pirl WF, Temel JS. Pilot Study of a Brief Behavioral Intervention for Dyspnea in Patients With Advanced Lung Cancer. J Pain Symptom Manage 2015. PubMed
  • Moore CW, Rauch PK, Baer L, Pirl WF, Muriel AC. Parenting changes in adults with cancer. Cancer 2015. PubMed
  • Sporn NJ, Smith KB, Pirl WF, Lennes IT, Hyland KA, Park ER. Sexual health communication between cancer survivors and providers: how frequently does it occur and which providers are preferred? 2015. PubMed
  • Fujisawa D, Temel JS, Traeger L, Greer JA, Lennes IT, Mimura M, Pirl WF. Psychological factors at early stage of treatment as predictors of receiving chemotherapy at the end of life. 2015. PubMed
  • Pirl WF, Greer JA, Irwin K, Lennes IT, Jackson VA, Park ER, Fujisawa D, Wright AA, Temel JS. Processes of discontinuing chemotherapy for metastatic non-small-cell lung cancer at the end of life. J Oncol Pract 2015. PubMed
  • Fisch MJ, Zhao F, Manola J, Miller AH, Pirl WF, Wagner LI. Patterns and predictors of antidepressant use in ambulatory cancer patients with common solid tumors. 2015. PubMed
  • El-Jawahri AR, Traeger LN, Kuzmuk K, Eusebio JR, Vandusen HB, Shin JA, Keenan T, Gallagher ER, Greer JA, Pirl WF, Jackson VA, Ballen KK, Spitzer TR, Graubert TA, McAfee SL, Dey BR, Chen YB, Temel JS. Quality of life and mood of patients and family caregivers during hospitalization for hematopoietic stem cell transplantation. Cancer 2015; 121:951-9. PubMed
  • Berger AM, Mitchell SA, Jacobsen PB, Pirl WF. Screening, evaluation, and management of cancer-related fatigue: Ready for implementation to practice? CA Cancer J Clin 2015. PubMed
  • Hirschberg AM, Chan-Smutko G, Pirl WF. Psychiatric implications of cancer genetic testing. Cancer 2015. PubMed
  • Berrett-Abebe J, Cadet T, Pirl W, Lennes I. Exploring the relationship between fear of cancer recurrence and sleep quality in cancer survivors. J Psychosoc Oncol 2015. PubMed
  • Greer JA, Pirl WF, Jackson VA, Muzikansky A, Lennes IT, Gallagher ER, Prigerson HG, Temel JS. Perceptions of health status and survival in patients with metastatic lung cancer. J Pain Symptom Manage 2014. PubMed
  • Pirl WF, Fann JR, Greer JA, Braun I, Deshields T, Fulcher C, Harvey E, Holland J, Kennedy V, Lazenby M, Wagner L, Underhill M, Walker DK, Zabora J, Zebrack B, Bardwell WA. Recommendations for the implementation of distress screening programs in cancer centers: report from the American Psychosocial Oncology Society (APOS), Association of Oncology Social Work (AOSW), and Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) joint task force. Cancer 2014. PubMed
  • Shin JA, Kosiba JD, Traeger L, Greer JA, Temel JS, Pirl WF. Dyspnea and panic among patients with newly diagnosed non-small cell lung cancer. J Pain Symptom Manage 2014. PubMed
  • Bower JE, Bak K, Berger A, Breitbart W, Escalante CP, Ganz PA, Schnipper HH, Lacchetti C, Ligibel JA, Lyman GH, Ogaily MS, Pirl WF, Jacobsen PB, . Screening, assessment, and management of fatigue in adult survivors of cancer: an American Society of Clinical oncology clinical practice guideline adaptation. J Clin Oncol 2014. PubMed
  • Greer JA, Lennes IT, Gallagher ER, Temel JS, Pirl WF. Documentation of oral versus intravenous chemotherapy plans in patients with metastatic non-small-cell lung cancer. J Oncol Pract 2014; 10:e103-6. PubMed
  • El-Jawahri A, Traeger L, Park ER, Greer JA, Pirl WF, Lennes IT, Jackson VA, Gallagher ER, Temel JS. Associations among prognostic understanding, quality of life, and mood in patients with advanced cancer. Cancer 2014; 120:278-85. PubMed
  • Traeger L, Cannon S, Keating NL, Pirl WF, Lathan C, Martin MY, He Y, Park ER. Race by sex differences in depression symptoms and psychosocial service use among non-Hispanic black and white patients with lung cancer. J Clin Oncol 2014; 32:107-13. PubMed
  • Jackson VA, Jacobsen J, Greer JA, Pirl WF, Temel JS, Back AL. The cultivation of prognostic awareness through the provision of early palliative care in the ambulatory setting: a communication guide. J Palliat Med 2013; 16:894-900. PubMed
  • Traeger L, Park ER, Sporn N, Repper-DeLisi J, Convery MS, Jacobo M, Pirl WF. Development and evaluation of targeted psychological skills training for oncology nurses in managing stressful patient and family encounters. Oncol Nurs Forum 2013; 40:E327-36. PubMed
  • Pirl WF, Traeger L, Greer JA, Jackson V, Lennes IT, Gallagher E, Sequist L, Temel JS. Depression, survival, and epidermal growth factor receptor genotypes in patients with metastatic non-small cell lung cancer. 2013. PubMed
  • Pirl WF, Jacobsen PB, Deshields TL. Opportunities for improving psychosocial care for cancer survivors. J Clin Oncol 2013. PubMed
  • Yoong J, Traeger LN, Gallagher ER, Pirl WF, Greer JA, Temel JS. A pilot study to investigate adherence to long-acting opioids among patients with advanced lung cancer. J Palliat Med 2013; 16:391-6. PubMed
  • Yoong J, Park ER, Greer JA, Jackson VA, Gallagher ER, Pirl WF, Back AL, Temel JS. Early palliative care in advanced lung cancer: a qualitative study. JAMA Intern Med 2013; 173:283-90. PubMed
  • Temel JS, Greer JA, Gallagher ER, Jackson VA, Lennes IT, Muzikansky A, Park ER, Pirl WF. Electronic prompt to improve outpatient code status documentation for patients with advanced lung cancer. J Clin Oncol 2013; 31:710-5. PubMed
  • Irwin KE, Greer JA, Khatib J, Temel JS, Pirl WF. Early palliative care and metastatic non-small cell lung cancer: potential mechanisms of prolonged survival. Chron Respir Dis 2013; 10:35-47. PubMed
  • Traeger L, Cannon S, Pirl WF, Park ER. Depression and undertreatment of depression: potential risks and outcomes in black patients with lung cancer. J Psychosoc Oncol 2013; 31:123-35. PubMed
  • Muriel AC, Moore CW, Baer L, Park ER, Kornblith AB, Pirl W, Prigerson H, Ing J, Rauch PK. Measuring psychosocial distress and parenting concerns among adults with cancer: the Parenting Concerns Questionnaire. Cancer 2012; 118:5671-8. PubMed
  • Maciejewski PK, Phelps AC, Kacel EL, Balboni TA, Balboni M, Wright AA, Pirl W, Prigerson HG. Religious coping and behavioral disengagement: opposing influences on advance care planning and receipt of intensive care near death. 2012. PubMed
  • Greer JA, Traeger L, Bemis H, Solis J, Hendriksen ES, Park ER, Pirl WF, Temel JS, Prigerson HG, Safren SA. A pilot randomized controlled trial of brief cognitive-behavioral therapy for anxiety in patients with terminal cancer. Oncologist 2012; 17:1337-45. PubMed
  • Traeger L, Braun IM, Greer JA, Temel JS, Cashavelly B, Pirl WF. Parsing depression from fatigue in patients with cancer using the fatigue symptom inventory. J Pain Symptom Manage 2011. PubMed
  • Jacobsen J, Jackson V, Dahlin C, Greer J, Perez-Cruz P, Billings JA, Pirl W, Temel J. Components of early outpatient palliative care consultation in patients with metastatic nonsmall cell lung cancer. J Palliat Med 2011. PubMed
  • Berger AM, Abernethy AP, Atkinson A, Barsevick AM, Breitbart WS, Cella D, Cimprich B, Cleeland C, Eisenberger MA, Escalante CP, Jacobsen PB, Kaldor P, Ligibel JA, Murphy BA, O'Connor T, Pirl WF, Rodler E, Rugo HS, Thomas J, Wagner LI. Cancer-related fatigue. J Natl Compr Canc Netw 2010; 8:904-31. PubMed
  • Temel JS, Greer JA, Muzikansky A, Gallagher ER, Admane S, Jackson VA, Dahlin CM, Blinderman CD, Jacobsen J, Pirl WF, Billings JA, Lynch TJ. Early palliative care for patients with metastatic non-small-cell lung cancer. N Engl J Med 2010; 363:733-42. PubMed
  • Spencer R, Nilsson M, Wright A, Pirl W, Prigerson H. Anxiety disorders in advanced cancer patients: correlates and predictors of end-of-life outcomes. Cancer 2010; 116:1810-1819. PubMed
  • Temel JS, Greer JA, Admane S, Solis J, Cashavelly BJ, Doherty S, Heist R, Pirl WF. Code status documentation in the outpatient electronic medical records of patients with metastatic cancer. J Gen Intern Med 2010; 25:150-3. PubMed
  • Pirl WF, Greer J, Temel JS, Yeap BY, Gilman SE. Major Depressive Disorder in Long-Term Cancer Survivors: Analysis of the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. J Clin Oncol 2009; 27:4130-4. PubMed
  • Pirl WF, Solis J, Greer J, Sequist L, Temel JS, Lynch TJ. Epidermal growth factor receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitors and depression. J Clin Oncol 2009; 27:e49-50; author reply e51. PubMed
  • Muriel AC, Hwang VS, Kornblith A, Greer J, Greenberg DB, Temel J, Schapira L, Pirl W. Management of psychosocial distress by oncologists. Psychiatr Serv 2009; 60:1132-4. PubMed
  • Paddison JS, Temel JS, Fricchione GL, Pirl WF. Using the differential from complete blood counts as a biomarker of fatigue in advanced non-small-cell lung cancer: an exploratory analysis. 2009; 7:213-7. PubMed
  • Temel JS,Greer JA,Goldberg S,Vogel PD,Sullivan M,Pirl WF,Lynch TJ,Christiani DC,Smith MR. A structured exercise program for patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer. J Thorac Oncol 2009; 4:595-601. PubMed
  • Greer JA,Pirl WF,Park ER,Lynch TJ,Temel JS. Behavioral and psychological predictors of chemotherapy adherence in patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer. J Psychosom Res 2008; 65:549-52. PubMed
  • Pirl WF, Temel JS, Billings A, Dahlin C, Jackson V, Prigerson HG, Greer J, Lynch TJ. Depression after diagnosis of advanced non-small cell lung cancer and survival: a pilot study. Psychosomatics 2008; 49:218-24. PubMed
  • Braun IM, Greenberg DB, Pirl WF. Evidenced-based report on the occurrence of fatigue in long-term cancer survivors. J Natl Compr Canc Netw 2008; 6:347-54. PubMed
  • Pirl WF, Greer JA, Goode M, Smith MR. Prospective study of depression and fatigue in men with advanced prostate cancer receiving hormone therapy. Psychooncology 2008; 17:148-53. PubMed
  • Temel JS, Jackson VA, Billings JA, Dahlin C, Block SD, Buss MK, Ostler P, Fidias P, Muzikansky A, Greer JA, Pirl WF, Lynch TJ. Phase II study: integrated palliative care in newly diagnosed advanced non-small-cell lung cancer patients. J Clin Oncol 2007; 25:2377-82. PubMed
  • Bambauer KZ, Zhang B, Maciejewski PK, Sahay N, Pirl WF, Block SD, Prigerson HG. Mutuality and specificity of mental disorders in advanced cancer patients and caregivers. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 2006; 41:819-24. PubMed
  • Temel JS, Pirl WF, Lynch TJ. Comprehensive symptom management in patients with advanced-stage non-small-cell lung cancer. Clin Lung Cancer 2006; 7:241-9. PubMed
  • Loscalzo M, Clark K, Pal S, Pirl WF. Role of biopsychosocial screening in cancer care. Cancer J 2013; 19:414-20. PubMed