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Phys Med Biol. 1999 Jan;44(1):185-205.

Intensity modulation methods for proton radiotherapy.

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Department of Radiation Medicine, Paul Scherrer Institute, Villigen, Switzerland.


The characteristic Bragg peak of protons or heavy ions provides a good localization of dose in three dimensions. Through their ability to deliver laterally and distally shaped homogenous fields, protons have been shown to be a precise and practical method for delivering highly conformal radiotherapy. However, in an analogous manner to intensity modulation for photons, protons can be used to construct dose distributions through the application of many individually inhomogeneous fields, but with the localization of dose in the Bragg peak providing the possibility of modulating intensity within each field in two or three dimensions. We describe four different methods of intensity modulation for protons and describe how these have been implemented in an existing proton planning system. As a preliminary evaluation of the efficacy of these methods, each has been applied to an example case using a variety of field combinations. Dose-volume histogram analysis of the resulting dose distributions shows that when large numbers of fields are used, all techniques exhibit both good target homogeneity and sparing of neighbouring critical structures, with little difference between the four techniques being discerned. As the number of fields is decreased, however, only a full 3D modulation of individual Bragg peaks can preserve both target coverage and sparing of normal tissues. We conclude that the 3D method provides the greatest flexibility for constructing conformal doses in challenging situations, but that when large numbers of beam ports are available, little advantage may be gained from the additional modulation of intensity in depth.

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