Purpose: There is interest in developing linac-MR systems for MRI-guided radiation therapy. To date, the designs for such linac-MR devices have been restricted to a transverse geometry where the static magnetic field is oriented perpendicular to the direction of the incident photon beam. This work extends possibilities in this field by proposing and examining by Monte Carlo simulations, a probable longitudinal configuration where the magnetic field is oriented in the same direction as the photon beam.
Methods: The EGSnrc Monte Carlo (MC) radiation transport codes with algorithms implemented to account for the magnetic field deflection of charged particles were used to compare dose distributions for linac-MR systems in transverse and longitudinal geometries. Specifically, the responses to a 6 MV pencil photon beam incident on water and lung slabs were investigated for 1.5 and 3.0 T magnetic fields. Further a five field lung plan was simulated in the longitudinal and transverse geometries across a range of magnetic field strengths from 0.2 through 3.0 T.
Results: In a longitudinal geometry, the magnetic field is shown to restrict the radial spread of secondary electrons to a small degree in water, but significantly in low density tissues such as lung in contrast to the lateral shift in dose distribution seen in the transverse geometry. These effects extend to the patient case, where the longitudinal configuration demonstrated dose distributions more tightly confined to the primary photon fields, which increased dose to the planning target volume (PTV), bettered dose homogeneity within a heterogeneous (in density) PTV, and reduced the tissue interface effects associated with the transverse geometry.
Conclusions: Dosimetry issues observed in a transverse linac-MR geometry such as changes to the depth dose distribution and tissue interface effects were significantly reduced or eliminated in a longitudinal geometry on a representative lung plan. Further, an increase in dose to the PTV, resulting from the magnetic field confining electrons to the forward direction, shows potential for a reduction in dose to the surrounding tissues.