Purpose: The first aim of this study is to investigate the feasibility of online autocontouring of tumor in low field MR images (0.2 and 0.5 T) by means of a phantom and simulation study for tumor-tracking in linac-MR systems. The second aim of this study is to develop an MR compatible, lung tumor motion phantom.
Methods: An autocontouring algorithm was developed to determine both the position and shape of a lung tumor from each intra fractional MR image. To initiate the algorithm, an expert user contours the tumor and its maximum anticipated range of motion (herein termed the Background) using pretreatment scan data. During treatment, the algorithm processes each intrafractional MR image and automatically contours the tumor. To evaluate this algorithm, the authors built a phantom that replicates the low field contrast parameters (proton density, T(1), T(2)) of lung tumors and healthy lung parenchyma. This phantom allows simulation of MR images with the expected lung tumor CNR at 0.2 and 0.5 T by using a single 3 T scanner. Dynamic bSSFP images (approximately 4 images per second) are acquired while the phantom undergoes a series of preprogrammed motions based on patient lung tumor motion data. These images are autocontoured off-line using our algorithm. The fidelity of autocontouring is assessed by comparing autocontoured tumor shape and its centroid position to the actual tumor shape and its position.
Results: The algorithm successfully contoured the shape of a moving tumor model from dynamic MR images acquired every 275 ms. Dice's coefficients of > 0.96 and > 0.93 are achieved in 0.5 and 0.2 T equivalent images, respectively. Also, the algorithm tracked tumor position during dynamic studies, with root mean squared error (RMSE) values of < 0.55 and < 0.92 mm for 0.5 and 0.2 T equivalent images, respectively. Autocontouring speed is approximately 5 ms for each image.
Conclusions: Dice's coefficients of > 0.96 and > 0.93 are achieved between autocontoured and real tumor shapes, and the position of a tumor can be tracked with RMSE values of < 0.55 and < 0.92 mm in 0.5 and 0.2 T equivalent images, respectively. These results demonstrate the feasibility of lung tumor autocontouring in low field MR images, and, by extension, intrafractional lung tumor tracking with our laboratory's linac-MR system.