Purpose: To investigate dosimetric improvements with respect to tumor-dose conformity and normal tissue sparing using intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT) compared with three-dimensional conformal radiotherapy (3D-CRT) for advanced-stage non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC).
Methods and materials: Forty-one patients with Stage III-IV and recurrent NSCLC who previously underwent 3D-CRT were included. IMRT plans were designed to deliver 63 Gy to 95% of the planning target volume using nine equidistant coplanar 6-MV beams. Inverse planning was performed to minimize the volumes of normal lung, heart, esophagus, and spinal cord irradiated above their tolerance doses. Dose distributions and dosimetric indexes for the tumors and critical structures in both plans were computed and compared.
Results: Using IMRT, the median absolute reduction in the percentage of lung volume irradiated to >10 and >20 Gy was 7% and 10%, respectively. This corresponded to a decrease of >2 Gy in the total lung mean dose and of 10% in the risk of radiation pneumonitis. The volumes of the heart and esophagus irradiated to >40-50 Gy and normal thoracic tissue volume irradiated to >10-40 Gy were reduced using the IMRT plans. A marginal increase occurred in the spinal cord maximal dose and lung volume >5 Gy in the IMRT plans, which could be have resulted from the significant increase in monitor units and thus leakage dose in IMRT.
Conclusion: IMRT planning significantly improved target coverage and reduced the volume of normal lung irradiated above low doses. The spread of low doses to normal tissues can be controlled in IMRT with appropriately selected planning parameters. The dosimetric benefits of IMRT for advanced-stage non-small-cell lung cancer must be evaluated further in clinical trials.