Acta Clin Croat. 2022 Oct;61(Suppl 3):65-70. doi: 10.20471/acc.2022.61.s3.9.


Radiotherapy is one of the key treatment modalities for primary prostate cancer. During the last decade, significant advances were made in radiotherapy technology leading to increasing both physical and biological precision. Being a loco-regional treatment approach, radiotherapy requires accurate target dose deposition while sparing surrounding healthy tissue. Conventional radiotherapy is based on computerized tomography (CT) images both for radiotherapy planning and image-guidance, however, shortcomings of CT as soft tissue imaging tool are well known. Nowadays, our ability to further escalate radiotherapy dose using hypofractionation is limited by uncertainties in CT-based image guidance and verification. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a well established imaging method for pelvic organs. In prostate cancer specifically, MRI accurately depicts prostate zonal anatomy, rectum, bladder, and pelvic floor structures with previously unseen precision owing to its sharp soft tissue contrast. The advantages of including MRI in the clinical workflow of prostate cancer radiotherapy are multifold. MRI allows for true adaptive radiotherapy to unfold based on daily MRI images taken before, during and after each radiotherapy fraction. It enables accurate dose escalation to the prostate and intraprostatic tumor lesions. Technically, MRI high-strength magnetic field and linear accelerator high energy electromagnetic beams are hardly compatible, and important efforts were made to overcome these technical challenges and integrate MRI and linear accelerator into one single treatment device, called MRI-linac. Different systems are produced by two leading vendors in the field and currently, there are around 100 MRI-linacs worldwide in clinical operations. In this narrative review paper, we discuss historical perspective of image guidance in radiotherapy, basic elements of MRI, current clinical developments in MRI-guided prostate cancer radiotherapy, and challenges associated with the use of MRI-linac in clinical practice.

Keywords: MR-guided radiotherapy; MR-linac; image-guided radiotherapy; online adaptive radiotherapy; prostate cancer.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Prostatic Neoplasms* / diagnostic imaging
  • Prostatic Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Prostatic Neoplasms* / radiotherapy
  • Radiotherapy Planning, Computer-Assisted / methods
  • Radiotherapy, Image-Guided* / methods
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods