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Med Phys. 2007 Jan;34(1):183-92.

Depth absorbed dose and LET distributions of therapeutic 1H, 4He, 7Li, and 12C beams.

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  • 1Division of Medical Radiation Physics, Department of Oncology-Pathology, Karolinska Institutet and Stockholm University, Box 260, SE-171 76 Stockholm, Sweden.


The depth absorbed dose and LET (linear energy transfer) distribution of different ions of clinical interest such as 1H, 4He, 7Li, and 12C ions have been investigated using the Monte Carlo code SHIELD-HIT. The energies of the projectiles correspond to ranges in water and soft tissue of approximately 260 mm. The depth dose distributions of the primary particles and their secondaries have been calculated and separated with regard to their low and high LET components. A LET value below 10 eV/nm can generally be regarded as low LET and sparsely ionizing like electrons and photons. The high LET region may be assumed to start at 20 eV/nm where on average two double-strand breaks can be formed when crossing the periphery of a nucleosome, even though strictly speaking the LET limits are not sharp and ought to vary with the charge and mass of the ion. At the Bragg peak of a monoenergetic high energy proton beam, less than 3% of the total absorbed dose is comprised of high LET components above 20 eV/nm. The high LET contribution to the total absorbed dose in the Bragg peak is significantly larger with increasing ion charge as a natural result of higher stopping power and lower range straggling. The fact that the range straggling and multiple scattering are reduced by half from hydrogen to helium increases the possibility to accurately deposit only the high LET component in the tumor with negligible dose to organs at risk. Therefore, the lateral penumbra is significantly improved and the higher dose gradients of 7Li and 12C ions both longitudinally and laterally will be of major advantage in biological optimized radiation therapy. With increasing charge of the ion, the high LET absorbed dose in the beam entrance and the plateau regions where healthy normal tissues are generally located is also increased. The dose distribution of the high LET components in the 7Li beam is only located around the Bragg peak, characterized by a Gaussian-type distribution. Furthermore, the secondary particles produced by high energy 7Li ions in tissuelike media have mainly low LET character both in front of and beyond the Bragg peak.

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