Depth Modulation in Radiotherapy

  • Gareth Baugh

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    Intensity Modulated Radiotherapy (IMRT) has been a major field of research over the last thirty years and is today the standard in radiotherapy treatment of cancer. The introduction of IMRT into the clinical environment has greatly improved the ability of the treatment team to conform the radiation dose to the tumour volume. Alongside improvements in image guidance, IMRT has led to a reduction in side effects for patients and opened up the possibilities of dose escalation and hypofractionation. IMRT is however by no means perfect. IMRT and derivatives such as Volumated Arc Therapy (VMAT) are limited by the exit dose from the X-ray beams and deliver a significant amount of radiation dose to normal tissues. The much publicised alternative to IMRT is proton therapy. Proton therapy beams deposit dose over a narrow range resulting in minimal exit dose. The future of radiotherapy certainly involves a significant contribution from proton therapy but the availability to patients is likely to remain limited for a long time to come. The research in this thesis considers the possibility of further improving IMRT by modulating radiotherapy beams along their direction of travel as well as across their intensity, i.e. the so called ‘Depth Modulation’ of the thesis title. Although there are numerous possible ways to achieve depth modulation, this work proposes a combination of X-ray beams with electron beams of different energies with both modalities delivered with a conventional medical linear accelerator. The research in this thesis is concerned with developing a proof of principle for this method. It is to some extent a theoretical study, however at each step the possibility of practical implementation has been considered with the view that the method is only a viable proposition if it can be effectively implemented into clinical practice.

    The technique proposed in this work is to use electron beams delivered through X-ray MLC with a standard patient set up. To reduce scatter and photon contamination it is proposed to remove the scattering foils from the beamline and to employ optimisation of the electron and photon components to compensate for any remaining penumbra broadening. The research has shown that improvements to dosimetry through removal of the scattering foil would allow delivery without reducing the source to surface distance, making a single isocentre synergistic delivery for both the electron and photon components practical. Electron dose segments have been calculated using Monte Carlo radiation transport and a procedure to optimise dose for the combined photon and electron IMRT technique has been developed. Through development of the optimisation procedure the characteristics of the mixed modality technique have been examined. A number of findings are demonstrated such as the benefit of gaps between electron segments, the benefits of optimising for energy in three dimensions and the dependence of the cost function minimum on the electron to photon ratio. Through clinical examples it has been shown that for tumours close to the surface the mixed modality technique has the potential to reduce the dose to normal tissues, particular in the low dose wash. Calculations of relative malignant induction probability demonstrate that this reduction in dose has the potential to reduce the incidence of secondary cancer induction. Possible treatment sites for application of the technique include breast, head and neck, brain and sarcomas.
    Date of Award2016
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Coventry University
    SupervisorKeith Burnham (Supervisor) & Olivier Haas (Supervisor)

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