Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) provides excellent soft tissue contrast for oncology applications. We propose to combine a MRI scanner with a helical tomotherapy (HT) system to enable daily target imaging for improved conformal radiation dose delivery to a patient. HT uses an intensity-modulated fan-beam that revolves around a patient, while the patient slowly advances through the plane of rotation, yielding a helical beam trajectory. Since the use of a linear accelerator to produce radiation may be incompatible with the pulsed radiofrequency and the high and pulsed magnetic fields required for MRI, it is proposed that a radioactive Cobalt-60 ((60)Co) source be used instead to provide the radiation. An open low field (0.25 T) MRI system is proposed where the tomotherapy ring gantry is located between two sets of Helmholtz coils that can generate a sufficiently homogenous main magnetic field.It is shown that the two major challenges with the design, namely acceptable radiation dose rate (and therefore treatment duration) and moving parts in strong magnetic field, can be addressed. The high dose rate desired for helical tomotherapy delivery can be achieved using two radiation sources of 220TBq (6000Ci) each on a ring gantry with a source to axis-of-rotation distance of 75 cm. In addition to this, a dual row multi-leaf collimator (MLC) system with 15 mm leaf width at isocentre and relatively large fan beam widths between 15 and 30 mm per row shall be employed. In this configuration, the unit would be well-suited for most pelvic radiotherapy applications where the soft tissue contrast of MRI will be particularly beneficial. Non-magnetic MRI compatible materials must be used for the rotating gantry. Tungsten, which is non-magnetic, can be used for primary collimation of the fan-beam as well as for the MLC, which allows intensity modulated radiation delivery. We propose to employ a low magnetic Cobalt compound, sycoporite (CoS) for the Cobalt source material itself.Rotational delivery is less susceptible to problems related to the use of a low energy megavoltage photon source while the helical delivery reduces the negative impact of the relatively large penumbra inherent in the use of Cobalt sources for radiotherapy. On the other hand, the use of a (60)Co source ensures constant dose rate with gantry rotation and makes dose calculation in a magnetic field as easy as the range of secondary electrons is limited.The MR-integrated Cobalt tomotherapy unit, dubbed 'MiCoTo,' uses two independent physical principles for image acquisition and treatment delivery. It would offer excellent target definition and will allow following target motion during treatment using fast imaging techniques thus providing the best possible input for adaptive radiotherapy. As an additional bonus, quality assurance of the radiation delivery can be performed in situ using radiation sensitive gels imaged by MRI.
Keywords: Image guided radiation therapy; magnetic resonance imaging; tomotherapy.