Treatment-planning approaches to intensity modulated proton therapy and the impact on dose-weighted linear energy transfer

J Appl Clin Med Phys. 2023 Jan;24(1):e13782. doi: 10.1002/acm2.13782. Epub 2022 Sep 26.


Purpose: We quantified the effect of various forward-based treatment-planning strategies in proton therapy on dose-weighted linear energy transfer (LETd). By maintaining the dosimetric quality at a clinically acceptable level, we aimed to evaluate the differences in LETd among various treatment-planning approaches and their practicality in minimizing biologic uncertainties associated with LETd.

Method: Eight treatment-planning strategies that are achievable in commercial treatment-planning systems were applied on a cylindrical water phantom and four pediatric brain tumor cases. Each planning strategy was compared to either an opposed lateral plan (phantom study) or original clinical plan (patient study). Deviations in mean and maximum LETd from clinically acceptable dose distributions were compared.

Results: In the phantom study, using a range shifter and altering the robust scenarios during optimization had the largest effect on the mean clinical target volume LETd, which was reduced from 4.5 to 3.9 keV/μm in both cases. Variations in the intersection angle between beams had the largest effect on LETd in a ring defined 3 to 5 mm outside the target. When beam intersection angles were reduced from opposed laterals (180°) to 120°, 90°, and 60°, corresponding maximum LETd increased from 7.9 to 8.9, 10.9, and 12.2 keV/μm, respectively. A clear trend in mean and maximum LETd variations in the clinical cases could not be established, though spatial distribution of LETd suggested a strong dependence on patient anatomy and treatment geometry.

Conclusion: Changes in LETd from treatment-plan setup follow intuitive trends in a controlled phantom experiment. Anatomical and other patient-specific considerations, however, can preclude generalizable strategies in clinical cases. For pediatric cranial radiation therapy, we recommend using opposed lateral treatment fields to treat midline targets.

Keywords: intensity-modulated proton therapy; linear energy transfer; proton therapy; relative biological effectiveness; treatment planning.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Humans
  • Linear Energy Transfer
  • Proton Therapy*
  • Radiometry
  • Radiotherapy Dosage
  • Radiotherapy Planning, Computer-Assisted
  • Relative Biological Effectiveness