Initial Clinical Experience of Cherenkov Imaging in External Beam Radiation Therapy Identifies Opportunities to Improve Treatment Delivery

Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 2021 Apr 1;109(5):1627-1637. doi: 10.1016/j.ijrobp.2020.11.013. Epub 2020 Nov 20.


Purpose: The value of Cherenkov imaging as an on-patient, real-time, treatment delivery verification system was examined in a 64-patient cohort during routine radiation treatments in a single-center study.

Methods and materials: Cherenkov cameras were mounted in treatment rooms and used to image patients during their standard radiation therapy regimen for various sites, predominantly for whole breast and total skin electron therapy. For most patients, multiple fractions were imaged, with some involving bolus or scintillators on the skin. Measures of repeatability were calculated with a mean distance to conformity (MDC) for breast irradiation images.

Results: In breast treatments, Cherenkov images identified fractions when treatment delivery resulted in dose on the contralateral breast, the arm, or the chin and found nonideal bolus positioning. In sarcoma treatments, safe positioning of the contralateral leg was monitored. For all 199 imaged breast treatment fields, the interfraction MDC was within 7 mm compared with the first day of treatment (with only 7.5% of treatments exceeding 3 mm), and all but 1 fell within 7 mm relative to the treatment plan. The value of imaging dose through clear bolus or quantifying surface dose with scintillator dots was examined. Cherenkov imaging also was able to assess field match lines in cerebral-spinal and breast irradiation with nodes. Treatment imaging of other anatomic sites confirmed the value of surface dose imaging more broadly.

Conclusions: Daily radiation therapy can be imaged routinely via Cherenkov emissions. Both the real-time images and the posttreatment, cumulative images provide surrogate maps of surface dose delivery that can be used for incident discovery and/or continuous improvement in many delivery techniques. In this initial 64-patient cohort, we discovered 6 minor incidents using Cherenkov imaging; these otherwise would have gone undetected. In addition, imaging provides automated, quantitative metrics useful for determining the quality of radiation therapy delivery.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Breast Neoplasms / radiotherapy
  • Cohort Studies
  • Craniospinal Irradiation / methods
  • Dose Fractionation, Radiation
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Luminescence*
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Optical Imaging / instrumentation
  • Optical Imaging / methods*
  • Particle Accelerators*
  • Patient Positioning*
  • Radiotherapy / methods
  • Radiotherapy Planning, Computer-Assisted
  • Sarcoma / diagnostic imaging
  • Sarcoma / radiotherapy
  • Skin / diagnostic imaging
  • Skin Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Skin Neoplasms / radiotherapy