Radiotherapy planning for glioblastoma based on a tumor growth model: implications for spatial dose redistribution

Phys Med Biol. 2014 Feb 7;59(3):771-89. doi: 10.1088/0031-9155/59/3/771. Epub 2014 Jan 20.


Gliomas differ from many other tumors as they grow infiltratively into the brain parenchyma rather than forming a solid tumor mass with a well-defined boundary. Tumor cells can be found several centimeters away from the central tumor mass that is visible using current imaging techniques. The infiltrative growth characteristics of gliomas question the concept of a radiotherapy target volume that is irradiated to a homogeneous dose-the standard in current clinical practice. We discuss the use of the Fisher-Kolmogorov glioma growth model in radiotherapy treatment planning. The phenomenological tumor growth model assumes that tumor cells proliferate locally and migrate into neighboring brain tissue, which is mathematically described via a partial differential equation for the spatio-temporal evolution of the tumor cell density. In this model, the tumor cell density drops approximately exponentially with distance from the visible gross tumor volume, which is quantified by the infiltration length, a parameter describing the distance at which the tumor cell density drops by a factor of e. This paper discusses the implications for the prescribed dose distribution in the periphery of the tumor. In the context of the exponential cell kill model, an exponential fall-off of the cell density suggests a linear fall-off of the prescription dose with distance. We introduce the dose fall-off rate, which quantifies the steepness of the prescription dose fall-off in units of Gy mm(-1). It is shown that the dose fall-off rate is given by the inverse of the product of radiosensitivity and infiltration length. For an infiltration length of 3 mm and a surviving fraction of 50% at 2 Gy, this suggests a dose fall-off of approximately 1 Gy mm(-1). The concept is illustrated for two glioblastoma patients by optimizing intensity-modulated radiotherapy plans. The dose fall-off rate concept reflects the idea that infiltrating gliomas lack a defined boundary and are characterized by a continuous fall-off of the density of infiltrating tumor cells. The approach can potentially be used to individualize the prescribed dose distribution if better methods to estimate radiosensitivity and infiltration length on a patient by patient basis become available.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brain Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Brain Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Cell Proliferation / radiation effects
  • Cell Survival / radiation effects
  • Glioblastoma / pathology*
  • Glioblastoma / radiotherapy*
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological*
  • Radiation Dosage*
  • Radiotherapy Dosage
  • Radiotherapy Planning, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Radiotherapy, Intensity-Modulated