Towards proton arc therapy: physical and biologically equivalent doses with increasing number of beams in pediatric brain irradiation

Acta Oncol. 2019 Oct;58(10):1451-1456. doi: 10.1080/0284186X.2019.1639823. Epub 2019 Jul 15.


Background: Proton arc therapy may improve physical dose conformity and reduce concerns of elevated linear energy transfer (LET) and relative biological effectiveness (RBE) at the end of the proton range, while offering more degrees of freedom for normal tissue sparing. To explore the potential of proton arc therapy, we studied the effect of increasing the number of beams on physical and biologically equivalent dose conformity in the setting of pediatric brain tumors. Material and methods: A cylindrical phantom (Ø = 150 mm) with central cylindrical targets (Ø = 25 and 30 mm) was planned with increasing number of equiangular coplanar proton beams (from 3 to 36). For four anonymized pediatric brain tumor patients, two 'surrogate' proton arc plans (18 equiangular coplanar or sagittal beams) and a reference plan with 3 non-coplanar beams were constructed. Biologically equivalent doses were calculated using two RBE scenarios: RBE1.1; and RBELET, the physical dose weighted by the LET. For both RBE scenarios, dose gradients were assessed, and doses to cognitive brain structures were reported. Results: Increasing the number of beams resulted in an improved dose gradient and reduced volume exposed to intermediate LET levels, at the expense of increased low-dose and low-LET volumes. Most of the differences between the two RBE scenarios were seen around the prescription dose level, where the isodose volumes increased with the RBELET plans, e.g. up to 63% in the 3-beam plan for the smallest phantom target. Overall, the temporal lobes were better spared with the sagittal proton arc surrogate plans, e.g. a mean dose of 3.9 Gy compared to 6 Gy in the reference 3-beam plan (median value, RBE1.1). Conclusion: Proton arc therapy has the potential to improve dose gradients to better spare cognitive brain structures. However, this is at the expense of increased low-dose/low-LET volumes, with possible implications for secondary cancer risks.

MeSH terms

  • Brain / radiation effects
  • Brain Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Child
  • Cognition / radiation effects
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Radiation
  • Humans
  • Linear Energy Transfer
  • Organ Sparing Treatments / adverse effects
  • Organ Sparing Treatments / methods*
  • Organs at Risk / radiation effects
  • Phantoms, Imaging
  • Proton Therapy / adverse effects
  • Proton Therapy / methods*
  • Radiation Injuries / etiology
  • Radiation Injuries / prevention & control*
  • Radiotherapy Planning, Computer-Assisted
  • Radiotherapy, Intensity-Modulated / adverse effects
  • Radiotherapy, Intensity-Modulated / methods*