Background: Proton therapy dose distributions are sensitive to range variations, e.g. arising from inter-fraction organ motion. The aim of this study was to evaluate the inter-fraction motion robustness of proton beams from different beam angles in irradiation of pelvic lymph nodes (LNs).
Material and methods: Planning CT (pCT) and multiple repeat CT (rCT) scans of 18 prostate cancer patients were used. Considering left and right LNs separately, the average water equivalent path length (WEPL) over all ray paths in the beams eye view of the LNs were calculated for all gantry/couch angle combinations across all rCTs versus the corresponding pCT. Single beam proton plans were optimized on the pCT for all gantry angles (0° couch) and were re-calculated on all rCTs for each respective patient. WEPL and dose parameters were extracted and a statistical clustering analysis performed to identify patient sub-populations in terms of patterns in which angles were robust.
Results: The WEPL analysis showed a general pattern of least variation for 0° couch beam angles where three minima were found across gantry angles for the left LNs and two for the right LNs. The clustering analysis identified three patient sub-groups for the left LNs and two groups for the right LNs. The dose calculations showed similar results as the WEPL variation, e.g. for the left LNs angles around 25°-35°, 100°-110°, and 160°-170° were consistently preferable for both target and organs at risk.
Conclusions: Sub-populations of patients with similar patterns of WEPL variations across beam angles were identified. The most robust angles found for WEPL variations were also confirmed by the dose/volume analysis.