Improve the dosimetric outcome in bilateral head and neck cancer (HNC) treatment using spot-scanning proton arc (SPArc) therapy: a feasibility study

Radiat Oncol. 2020 Jan 30;15(1):21. doi: 10.1186/s13014-020-1476-9.


Background: To explore the dosimetric improvement, delivery efficiency, and plan robustness for bilateral head and neck cancer (HNC) treatment utilizing a novel proton therapy technique - the spot-scanning proton arc (SPArc) therapy.

Methods: We evaluated fourteen bilateral HNC patients retrospectively. Both SPArc and 3-field Intensity Modulated Proton Therapy (IMPT) plans were generated for each patient using the same robust optimization parameters. The prescription doses were 70Gy (relative biological effectiveness (RBE) for CTV_high and 60Gy[RBE] for CTV_low. Clinically significant dosimetric parameters were extracted and compared. Root-mean-square deviation dose (RMSDs) Volume Histogram(RVH) was used to evaluate the plan robustness. Total treatment delivery time was estimated based on the machine parameters.

Results: The SPArc plan was able to provide equivalent or better robust target coverage while showed significant dosimetric improvements over IMPT in most of the organs at risk (OARs). More specifically, it reduced the mean dose of the ipsilateral parotid, contralateral parotid, and oral cavity by 25.8%(p = 0.001), 20.8%(p = 0.001) and 20.3%(p = 0.001) respectively compared to IMPT. This technique reduced D1 (the maximum dose covering 1% volume of a structure) of cord and brain stem by 20.8% (p = 0.009) and 10.7% (p = 0.048), respectively. SPArc also reduced the average integral dose by 17.2%(p = 0.001) and external V3Gy (the volume received 3Gy[RBE]) by 8.3%(p = 0.008) as well. RVH analysis showed that the SPArc plans reduced the dose uncertainties in most OARs compared to IMPT, such as cord: 1.1 ± 0.4Gy[RBE] vs 0.7 ± 0.3Gy[RBE](p = 0.001), brain stem: 0.9 ± 0.7Gy[RBE] vs 0.7 ± 0.7Gy[RBE](p = 0.019), contralateral parotid: 2.5 ± 0.5Gy[RBE] vs 2.2 ± 0.6Gy[RBE](p = 0.022) and ipsilateral parotid: 3.1 ± 0.7Gy[RBE] vs 2.8 ± 0.6Gy[RBE](p = 0.004) respectively. The average total estimated treatment delivery time were 283.4 ± 56.2 s, 469.2 ± 62.0 s and 1294.9 ± 106.7 s based on energy-layer-switching-time (ELST) of 0.1 s, 1 s, and 5 s respectively for SPArc plans, compared to the respective values of 328.0 ± 47.6 s(p = 0.002), 434.1 ± 52.0 s(p = 0.002), and 901.7 ± 74.8 s(p = 0.001) for 3-field IMPT plans. The potential clinical benefit of utilizing SPArc will lead to a decrease in the mean probability of salivary flow dysfunction by 31.3%(p = 0.001) compared with IMPT.

Conclusions: SPArc could significantly spare OARs while providing a similar or better robust target coverage compared with IMPT in the treatment of bilateral HNC. In the modern proton system with ELST less than 0.5 s, SPArc could potentially be implemented in the routine clinic with a practical, achievable treatment delivery efficiency.

Keywords: Dosimetric outcome; bilateral head and neck cancer; spot-scanning; proton arc; delivery efficiency; Robustness.

MeSH terms

  • Feasibility Studies
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / pathology
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Humans
  • Organs at Risk / radiation effects
  • Proton Therapy / adverse effects
  • Proton Therapy / methods*
  • Radiation Injuries / etiology
  • Radiometry
  • Radiotherapy Dosage
  • Radiotherapy Planning, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Radiotherapy, Intensity-Modulated / methods*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Time Factors