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Med Phys. 2004 Jul;31(7):2107-18.

Accurate Monte Carlo simulations for nozzle design, commissioning and quality assurance for a proton radiation therapy facility.

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  • 1Northeast Proton Therapy Center, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02114, USA.


Monte Carlo dosimetry calculations are essential methods in radiation therapy. To take full advantage of this tool, the beam delivery system has to be simulated in detail and the initial beam parameters have to be known accurately. The modeling of the beam delivery system itself opens various areas where Monte Carlo calculations prove extremely helpful, such as for design and commissioning of a therapy facility as well as for quality assurance verification. The gantry treatment nozzles at the Northeast Proton Therapy Center (NPTC) at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) were modeled in detail using the GEANT4.5.2 Monte Carlo code. For this purpose, various novel solutions for simulating irregular shaped objects in the beam path, like contoured scatterers, patient apertures or patient compensators, were found. The four-dimensional, in time and space, simulation of moving parts, such as the modulator wheel, was implemented. Further, the appropriate physics models and cross sections for proton therapy applications were defined. We present comparisons between measured data and simulations. These show that by modeling the treatment nozzle with millimeter accuracy, it is possible to reproduce measured dose distributions with an accuracy in range and modulation width, in the case of a spread-out Bragg peak (SOBP), of better than 1 mm. The excellent agreement demonstrates that the simulations can even be used to generate beam data for commissioning treatment planning systems. The Monte Carlo nozzle model was used to study mechanical optimization in terms of scattered radiation and secondary radiation in the design of the nozzles. We present simulations on the neutron background. Further, the Monte Carlo calculations supported commissioning efforts in understanding the sensitivity of beam characteristics and how these influence the dose delivered. We present the sensitivity of dose distributions in water with respect to various beam parameters and geometrical misalignments. This allows the definition of tolerances for quality assurance and the design of quality assurance procedures.

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