Can differences in linear energy transfer and thus relative biological effectiveness compromise the dosimetric advantage of intensity-modulated proton therapy as compared to passively scattered proton therapy?

Acta Oncol. 2018 Sep;57(9):1259-1264. doi: 10.1080/0284186X.2018.1468090. Epub 2018 May 4.


Purpose: To investigate the effect of differences in linear energy transfer (LET) and thus the relative biological effectiveness (RBE) between passively scattered proton therapy (PS) and pencil-beam scanning intensity-modulated proton therapy (IMPT).

Methods: IMPT treatment plans were generated for six ependymoma patients, originally treated with PS, using the original plan's computed tomography image sets and beam directions, and its dose-volume values as optimization constraints. Two beam spot sizes and both single-field optimization (SFO) and multi-field optimization (MFO) techniques were used for each patient. Three-dimensional variable-RBE-weighted dose distributions were computed, using Monte Carlo calculated dose and LET distributions, and a linear dose and LET-based RBE model, and were compared between the two delivery methods.

Results: Increased target dose coverage and decreased mean and maximum dose to the OARs was achieved with IMPT compared to PS, for constant RBE value of 1.1. Nevertheless, the maximum variable-RBE-weighted dose to the brainstem, was increased up to 6% for the IMPT plans compared to the corresponding PS plans.

Conclusions: IMPT can be dosimetrically superior to PS for ependymoma patients. However, caution should be exercised so that the increased dose conformity is not counteracted by an increase in radiobiological effect in adjacent critical structures.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Calibration
  • Cohort Studies
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Radiation
  • Ependymoma / radiotherapy*
  • Humans
  • Linear Energy Transfer / physiology*
  • Monte Carlo Method
  • Organs at Risk
  • Proton Therapy / adverse effects
  • Proton Therapy / methods*
  • Proton Therapy / standards
  • Radiometry
  • Radiotherapy Dosage
  • Radiotherapy Planning, Computer-Assisted* / standards
  • Radiotherapy, Intensity-Modulated* / methods
  • Radiotherapy, Intensity-Modulated* / standards
  • Relative Biological Effectiveness*

Supplementary concepts

  • Familial ependymoma