Pareto front analysis of 6 and 15 MV dynamic IMRT for lung cancer using pencil beam, AAA and Monte Carlo

Phys Med Biol. 2010 Aug 21;55(16):4521-33. doi: 10.1088/0031-9155/55/16/S07. Epub 2010 Jul 29.


The pencil beam dose calculation method is frequently used in modern radiation therapy treatment planning regardless of the fact that it is documented inaccurately for cases involving large density variations. The inaccuracies are larger for higher beam energies. As a result, low energy beams are conventionally used for lung treatments. The aim of this study was to analyze the advantages and disadvantages of dynamic IMRT treatment planning for high and low photon energy in order to assess if deviating from the conventional low energy approach could be favorable in some cases. Furthermore, the influence of motion on the dose distribution was investigated. Four non-small cell lung cancer cases were selected for this study. Inverse planning was conducted using Varian Eclipse. A total number of 31 dynamic IMRT plans, distributed amongst the four cases, were created ranging from PTV conformity weighted to normal tissue sparing weighted. All optimized treatment plans were calculated using three different calculation algorithms (PBC, AAA and MC). In order to study the influence of motion, two virtual lung phantoms were created. The idea was to mimic two different situations: one where the GTV is located centrally in the PTV and another where the GTV was close to the edge of the PTV. PBC is in poor agreement with MC and AAA for all cases and treatment plans. AAA overestimates the dose, compared to MC. This effect is more pronounced for 15 than 6 MV. AAA and MC both predict similar perturbations in dose distributions when moving the GTV to the edge of the PTV. PBC, however, predicts results contradicting those of AAA and MC. This study shows that PB-based dose calculation algorithms are clinically insufficient for patient geometries involving large density inhomogeneities. AAA is in much better agreement with MC, but even a small overestimation of the dose level by the algorithm might lead to a large part of the PTV being underdosed. It is advisable to use low energy as a default for tumor sites involving lungs. However, there might be situations where it is favorable to use high energy. In order to deviate from the recommended low energy convention, an accurate dose calculation algorithm (e.g. MC) should be consulted. The study underlines the inaccuracies introduced when calculating dose using a PB-based algorithm in geometries involving large density variations. PBC, in contrast to other algorithms (AAA and MC), predicts a decrease in dose when the density is increased.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / radiotherapy*
  • Equipment Design
  • Humans
  • Lung / diagnostic imaging
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology
  • Lung Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Monte Carlo Method
  • Phantoms, Imaging
  • Radiography
  • Radiotherapy Planning, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Radiotherapy, Intensity-Modulated / methods*