A modular method to handle multiple time-dependent quantities in Monte Carlo simulations

Phys Med Biol. 2012 Jun 7;57(11):3295-308. doi: 10.1088/0031-9155/57/11/3295. Epub 2012 May 9.


A general method for handling time-dependent quantities in Monte Carlo simulations was developed to make such simulations more accessible to the medical community for a wide range of applications in radiotherapy, including fluence and dose calculation. To describe time-dependent changes in the most general way, we developed a grammar of functions that we call 'Time Features'. When a simulation quantity, such as the position of a geometrical object, an angle, a magnetic field, a current, etc, takes its value from a Time Feature, that quantity varies over time. The operation of time-dependent simulation was separated into distinct parts: the Sequence samples time values either sequentially at equal increments or randomly from a uniform distribution (allowing quantities to vary continuously in time), and then each time-dependent quantity is calculated according to its Time Feature. Due to this modular structure, time-dependent simulations, even in the presence of multiple time-dependent quantities, can be efficiently performed in a single simulation with any given time resolution. This approach has been implemented in TOPAS (TOol for PArticle Simulation), designed to make Monte Carlo simulations with Geant4 more accessible to both clinical and research physicists. To demonstrate the method, three clinical situations were simulated: a variable water column used to verify constancy of the Bragg peak of the Crocker Lab eye treatment facility of the University of California, the double-scattering treatment mode of the passive beam scattering system at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), where a spinning range modulator wheel accompanied by beam current modulation produces a spread-out Bragg peak, and the scanning mode at MGH, where time-dependent pulse shape, energy distribution and magnetic fields control Bragg peak positions. Results confirm the clinical applicability of the method.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Monte Carlo Method*
  • Proton Therapy
  • Radiotherapy Planning, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Time Factors


  • Protons