Date of Graduation


Document Type

Dissertation (PhD)

Program Affiliation

Medical Physics

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Advisor/Committee Chair

X. Ronald Zhu Ph.D.

Committee Member

Lei Dong Ph.D.

Committee Member

Narayanh Sahoo Ph.D.

Committee Member

Laurence E. Court Ph.D.

Committee Member

Susan L. Tucker Ph.D.

Committee Member

Andrew K. Lee M.D.


Proton therapy is growing increasingly popular due to its superior dose characteristics compared to conventional photon therapy. Protons travel a finite range in the patient body and stop, thereby delivering no dose beyond their range. However, because the range of a proton beam is heavily dependent on the tissue density along its beam path, uncertainties in patient setup position and inherent range calculation can degrade thedose distribution significantly. Despite these challenges that are unique to proton therapy, current management of the uncertainties during treatment planning of proton therapy has been similar to that of conventional photon therapy. The goal of this dissertation research was to develop a treatment planning method and a planevaluation method that address proton-specific issues regarding setup and range uncertainties.

Treatment plan designing method adapted to proton therapy: Currently, for proton therapy using a scanning beam delivery system, setup uncertainties are largely accounted for by geometrically expanding a clinical target volume (CTV) to a planning target volume (PTV). However, a PTV alone cannot adequately account for range uncertainties coupled to misaligned patient anatomy in the beam path since it does not account for the change in tissue density. In order to remedy this problem, we proposed a beam-specific PTV (bsPTV) that accounts for the change in tissue density along the beam path due to the uncertainties. Our proposed method was successfully implemented, and its superiority over the conventional PTV was shown through a controlled experiment.. Furthermore, we have shown that the bsPTV concept can be incorporated into beam angle optimization for better target coverage and normal tissue sparing for a selected lung cancer patient.

Treatment plan evaluation method adapted to proton therapy: The dose-volume histogram of the clinical target volume (CTV) or any other volumes of interest at the time of planning does not represent the most probable dosimetric outcome of a given plan as it does not include the uncertainties mentioned earlier. Currently, the PTV is used as a surrogate of the CTV’s worst case scenario for target dose estimation. However, because proton dose distributions are subject to change under these uncertainties, the validity of the PTV analysis method is questionable. In order to remedy this problem, we proposed the use of statistical parameters to quantify uncertainties on both the dose-volume histogram and dose distribution directly. The robust plan analysis tool was successfully implemented to compute both the expectation value and its standard deviation of dosimetric parameters of a treatment plan under the uncertainties. For 15 lung cancer patients, the proposed method was used to quantify the dosimetric difference between the nominal situation and its expected value under the uncertainties.


Proton Therapy