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Med Phys. 2007 Feb;34(2):419-35.

PET/CT imaging for treatment verification after proton therapy: a study with plastic phantoms and metallic implants.

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Department of Radiation Oncology, Massachusetts General Hospital, 30 Fruit Street, Boston, Massachusetts 02114, USA.


The feasibility of off-line positron emission tomography/computed tomography (PET/CT) for routine three dimensional in-vivo treatment verification of proton radiation therapy is currently under investigation at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. In preparation for clinical trials, phantom experiments were carried out to investigate the sensitivity and accuracy of the method depending on irradiation and imaging parameters. Furthermore, they addressed the feasibility of PET/CT as a robust verification tool in the presence of metallic implants. These produce x-ray CT artifacts and fluence perturbations which may compromise the accuracy of treatment planning algorithms. Spread-out Bragg peak proton fields were delivered to different phantoms consisting of polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA), PMMA stacked with lung and bone equivalent materials, and PMMA with titanium rods to mimic implants in patients. PET data were acquired in list mode starting within 20 min after irradiation at a commercial luthetium-oxyorthosilicate (LSO)-based PET/CT scanner. The amount and spatial distribution of the measured activity could be well reproduced by calculations based on the GEANT4 and FLUKA Monte Carlo codes. This phantom study supports the potential of millimeter accuracy for range monitoring and lateral field position verification even after low therapeutic dose exposures of 2 Gy, despite the delay between irradiation and imaging. It also indicates the value of PET for treatment verification in the presence of metallic implants, demonstrating a higher sensitivity to fluence perturbations in comparison to a commercial analytical treatment planning system. Finally, it addresses the suitability of LSO-based PET detectors for hadron therapy monitoring. This unconventional application of PET involves countrates which are orders of magnitude lower than in diagnostic tracer imaging, i.e., the signal of interest is comparable to the noise originating from the intrinsic radioactivity of the detector itself. In addition to PET alone, PET/CT imaging provides accurate information on the position of the imaged object and may assess possible anatomical changes during fractionated radiotherapy in clinical applications.

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