Date of Graduation


Document Type

Dissertation (PhD)

Program Affiliation

Medical Physics

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Advisor/Committee Chair

Rajat Kudchadker, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Laurence E Court, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Lei Dong, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Patricia J Eifel, M.D.

Committee Member

Ann H Klopp, M.D., Ph.D.

Committee Member

Firas Mourtada, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Susan Tucker, Ph.D.


Radiation therapy for patients with intact cervical cancer is frequently delivered using primary external beam radiation therapy (EBRT) followed by two fractions of intracavitary brachytherapy (ICBT). Although the tumor is the primary radiation target, controlling microscopic disease in the lymph nodes is just as critical to patient treatment outcome. In patients where gross lymphadenopathy is discovered, an extra EBRT boost course is delivered between the two ICBT fractions. Since the nodal boost is an addendum to primary EBRT and ICBT, the prescription and delivery must be performed considering previously delivered dose. This project aims to address the major issues of this complex process for the purpose of improving treatment accuracy while increasing dose sparing to the surrounding normal tissues.

Because external beam boosts to involved lymph nodes are given prior to the completion of ICBT, assumptions must be made about dose to positive lymph nodes from future implants. The first aim of this project was to quantify differences in nodal dose contribution between independent ICBT fractions. We retrospectively evaluated differences in the ICBT dose contribution to positive pelvic nodes for ten patients who had previously received external beam nodal boost. Our results indicate that the mean dose to the pelvic nodes differed by up to 1.9 Gy between independent ICBT fractions.

The second aim is to develop and validate a volumetric method for summing dose of the normal tissues during prescription of nodal boost. The traditional method of dose summation uses the maximum point dose from each modality, which often only represents the worst case scenario. However, the worst case is often an exaggeration when highly conformal therapy methods such as intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) are used. We used deformable image registration algorithms to volumetrically sum dose for the bladder and rectum and created a voxel-by-voxel validation method. The mean error in deformable image registration results of all voxels within the bladder and rectum were 5 and 6 mm, respectively.

Finally, the third aim explored the potential use of proton therapy to reduce normal tissue dose. A major physical advantage of protons over photons is that protons stop after delivering dose in the tumor. Although theoretically superior to photons, proton beams are more sensitive to uncertainties caused by interfractional anatomical variations, and must be accounted for during treatment planning to ensure complete target coverage. We have demonstrated a systematic approach to determine population-based anatomical margin requirements for proton therapy. The observed optimal treatment angles for common iliac nodes were 90° (left lateral) and 180° (posterior-anterior [PA]) with additional 0.8 cm and 0.9 cm margins, respectively. For external iliac nodes, lateral and PA beams required additional 0.4 cm and 0.9 cm margins, respectively.

Through this project, we have provided radiation oncologists with additional information about potential differences in nodal dose between independent ICBT insertions and volumetric total dose distribution in the bladder and rectum. We have also determined the margins needed for safe delivery of proton therapy when delivering nodal boosts to patients with cervical cancer.


radiation therapy, cervical cancer, intracavitary brachytherapy, deformable image registration, proton therapy, radiation treatment uncertainties, radiation treatment margins



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