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Radiother Oncol. 2001 Aug;60(2):163-72.

Optimisation of radiotherapy for carcinoma of the parotid gland: a comparison of conventional, three-dimensional conformal, and intensity-modulated techniques.

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Department of Radiotherapy, Institute of Cancer Research and Royal Marsden NHS Trust, Downs Road, Surrey, Sutton, UK.



To compare external beam radiotherapy techniques for parotid gland tumours using conventional radiotherapy (RT), three-dimensional conformal radiotherapy (3DCRT), and intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT). To optimise the IMRT techniques, and to produce an IMRT class solution.


The planning target volume (PTV), contra-lateral parotid gland, oral cavity, brain-stem, brain and cochlea were outlined on CT planning scans of six patients with parotid gland tumours. Optimised conventional RT and 3DCRT plans were created and compared with inverse-planned IMRT dose distributions using dose-volume histograms. The aim was to reduce the radiation dose to organs at risk and improve the PTV dose distribution. A beam-direction optimisation algorithm was used to improve the dose distribution of the IMRT plans, and a class solution for parotid gland IMRT was investigated.


3DCRT plans produced an equivalent PTV irradiation and reduced the dose to the cochlea, oral cavity, brain, and other normal tissues compared with conventional RT. IMRT further reduced the radiation dose to the cochlea and oral cavity compared with 3DCRT. For nine- and seven-field IMRT techniques, there was an increase in low-dose radiation to non-target tissue and the contra-lateral parotid gland. IMRT plans produced using three to five optimised intensity-modulated beam directions maintained the advantages of the more complex IMRT plans, and reduced the contra-lateral parotid gland dose to acceptable levels. Three- and four-field non-coplanar beam arrangements increased the volume of brain irradiated, and increased PTV dose inhomogeneity. A four-field class solution consisting of paired ipsilateral coplanar anterior and posterior oblique beams (15, 45, 145 and 170 degrees from the anterior plane) was developed which maintained the benefits without the complexity of individual patient optimisation.


For patients with parotid gland tumours, reduction in the radiation dose to critical normal tissues was demonstrated with 3DCRT compared with conventional RT. IMRT produced a further reduction in the dose to the cochlea and oral cavity. With nine and seven fields, the dose to the contra-lateral parotid gland was increased, but this was avoided by optimisation of the beam directions. The benefits of IMRT were maintained with three or four fields when the beam angles were optimised, but were also achieved using a four-field class solution. Clinical trials are required to confirm the clinical benefits of these improved dose distributions.

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