Purpose: To calculate treatment plans and compare the dose distributions and dose-volume histograms (DVHs) for photon three-dimensional conformal radiation therapy (3D-CRT), electron therapy, intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), and standard (nonintensity modulated) proton therapy in three pediatric disease sites.
Methods and materials: The tumor volumes from 8 patients (3 retinoblastomas, 2 medulloblastomas, and 3 pelvic sarcomas) were studied retrospectively to compare DVHs from proton therapy with 3D-CRT, electron therapy, and IMRT. In retinoblastoma, several planning techniques were analyzed: A single electron appositional beam was compared with a single 3D-CRT lateral beam, a 3D-CRT anterior beam paired with a lateral beam, IMRT, and protons. In medulloblastoma, three posterior fossa irradiation techniques were analyzed: 3D-CRT, IMRT, and protons. Craniospinal irradiation (which consisted of composite plans of both the posterior fossa and craniospinal components) was also evaluated, primarily comparing spinal irradiation using 3D-CRT electrons, 3D-CRT photons, and protons. Lastly, in pelvic sarcoma, 3D-CRT, IMRT, and proton plans were assessed.
Results: In retinoblastoma, protons resulted in the best target coverage combined with the most orbital bone sparing (10% was the mean orbital bone volume irradiated at > or =5 Gy for protons vs. 25% for 3D-CRT electrons, 69% for IMRT, 41% for a single 3D lateral beam, 51% for a 3D anterolateral beam with a lens block, and 65% for a 3D anterolateral beam without a lens block). A single appositional electron field was the next best technique followed by other planning approaches. In medulloblastoma, for posterior fossa and craniospinal irradiation, protons resulted in the least dose to the cochlea (for only posterior fossa irradiation at > or =20 Gy, 34% was the mean cochlear volume irradiated for protons, 87% for IMRT, 89% for 3D-CRT) and hypothalamus-pituitary axis (for only posterior fossa irradiation at > or =10 Gy, 21% was the mean hypothalamus-pituitary volume irradiated for protons, 81% for IMRT, 91% for 3D-CRT); additional dose reductions to the optic chiasm, eyes, vertebrae, mandible, thyroid, lung, kidneys, heart, and liver were seen. Intensity-modulated radiotherapy appeared to be the second best technique for posterior fossa irradiation. For spinal irradiation 3D-CRT electrons were better than 3D-CRT photons in sparing dose to the thyroid, heart, lung, kidney, and liver. With pelvic sarcoma, protons were superior in eliminating any dose to the ovaries (0% of mean ovarian volume was irradiated at > or =2 Gy with protons) and to some extent, the pelvic bones and vertebrae. Intensity-modulated radiotherapy did show more bladder dose reduction than the other techniques in pelvic sarcoma irradiation.
Conclusions: In the diseases studied, using various techniques of 3D-CRT, electrons, IMRT, and protons, protons are most optimal in treating retinoblastomas, medulloblastomas (posterior fossa and craniospinal), and pelvic sarcomas. Protons delivered superior target dose coverage and sparing of normal structures. As dose-volume parameters are expected to correlate with acute and late toxicity, proton therapy should receive serious consideration as the preferred technique for the treatment of pediatric tumors.