William F. Pirl is an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and director of the Center for Psychiatric Oncology and Behavioral Sciences at Massachusetts General Hospital. He is a clinician-researcher who focuses on the relationship between depression and survival in patients with metastatic lung cancer. His research interests range from the association of depression and specific lung cancer genotypes to end-of-life (EOL) care.
During the fellowship, Pirl is studying one aspect of EOL care in patients with metastatic lung cancer: the discontinuation of chemotherapy. Although patients with cancer and their families state that they would prefer care focused on comfort at the EOL versus aggressive treatment such as additional chemotherapy, the challenge for clinicians is to identify the beginning of the EOL and the transition point when chemotherapy stops being therapeutic and may even hasten death. Pirl’s project aims to develop a model to prospectively identify a point for discontinuing chemotherapy that maximizes survival by utilizing methods used in psychological scale construction and two cohorts of patients with metastatic lung cancer.
Pirl received a BA in psychology from the University of Pennsylvania, an MD from Harvard Medical School, and an MPH from the Harvard School of Public Health. His research has been funded by the American Cancer Society, the National Institutes of Health, and private foundations. He is the president of the American Psychosocial Oncology Society.