Electron intensity modulation for mixed-beam radiation therapy with an x-ray multi-leaf collimator

Rebecca Weinberg, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


The current standard treatment for head and neck cancer at our institution uses intensity-modulated x-ray therapy (IMRT), which improves target coverage and sparing of critical structures by delivering complex fluence patterns from a variety of beam directions to conform dose distributions to the shape of the target volume. The standard treatment for breast patients is field-in-field forward-planned IMRT, with initial tangential fields and additional reduced-weight tangents with blocking to minimize hot spots. For these treatment sites, the addition of electrons has the potential of improving target coverage and sparing of critical structures due to rapid dose falloff with depth and reduced exit dose. In this work, the use of mixed-beam therapy (MBT), i.e., combined intensity-modulated electron and x-ray beams using the x-ray multi-leaf collimator (MLC), was explored. The hypothesis of this study was that addition of intensity-modulated electron beams to existing clinical IMRT plans would produce MBT plans that were superior to the original IMRT plans for at least 50% of selected head and neck and 50% of breast cases. Dose calculations for electron beams collimated by the MLC were performed with Monte Carlo methods. An automation system was created to facilitate communication between the dose calculation engine and the treatment planning system. Energy and intensity modulation of the electron beams was accomplished by dividing the electron beams into 2x2-cm2 beamlets, which were then beam-weight optimized along with intensity-modulated x-ray beams. Treatment plans were optimized to obtain equivalent target dose coverage, and then compared with the original treatment plans. MBT treatment plans were evaluated by participating physicians with respect to target coverage, normal structure dose, and overall plan quality in comparison with original clinical plans. The physician evaluations did not support the hypothesis for either site, with MBT selected as superior in 1 out of the 15 head and neck cases (p=1) and 6 out of 18 breast cases (p=0.95). While MBT was not shown to be superior to IMRT, reductions were observed in doses to critical structures distal to the target along the electron beam direction and to non-target tissues, at the expense of target coverage and dose homogeneity.

Subject Area

Medical imaging|Nuclear physics|Biophysics

Recommended Citation

Weinberg, Rebecca, "Electron intensity modulation for mixed-beam radiation therapy with an x-ray multi-leaf collimator" (2007). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3287852.