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Phys Med Biol. 2011 Feb 21;56(4):1063-82. doi: 10.1088/0031-9155/56/4/012. Epub 2011 Jan 25.

Monte Carlo patient study on the comparison of prompt gamma and PET imaging for range verification in proton therapy.

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Department of Radiation Oncology, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02114, USA.


The purpose of this work was to compare the clinical adaptation of prompt gamma (PG) imaging and positron emission tomography (PET) as independent tools for non-invasive proton beam range verification and treatment validation. The PG range correlation and its differences with PET have been modeled for the first time in a highly heterogeneous tissue environment, using different field sizes and configurations. Four patients with different tumor locations (head and neck, prostate, spine and abdomen) were chosen to compare the site-specific behaviors of the PG and PET images, using both passive scattered and pencil beam fields. Accurate reconstruction of dose, PG and PET distributions was achieved by using the planning computed tomography (CT) image in a validated GEANT4-based Monte Carlo code capable of modeling the treatment nozzle and patient anatomy in detail. The physical and biological washout phenomenon and decay half-lives for PET activity for the most abundant isotopes such as (11)C, (15)O, (13)N, (30)P and (38)K were taken into account in the data analysis. The attenuation of the gamma signal after traversing the patient geometry and respective detection efficiencies were estimated for both methods to ensure proper comparison. The projected dose, PG and PET profiles along many lines in the beam direction were analyzed to investigate the correlation consistency across the beam width. For all subjects, the PG method showed on average approximately 10 times higher gamma production rates than the PET method before, and 60 to 80 times higher production after including the washout correction and acquisition time delay. This rate strongly depended on tissue density and elemental composition. For broad passive scattered fields, it was demonstrated that large differences exist between PG and PET signal falloff positions and the correlation with the dose distribution for different lines in the beam direction. These variations also depended on the treatment site and the particular subject. Thus, similar to PET, direct range verification with PG in passive scattering is not easily viable. However, upon development of an optimized 3D PG detector, indirect range verification by comparing measured and simulated PG distributions (currently being explored for the PET method) would be more beneficial because it can avoid the inherent biological challenges of the PET imaging. The improved correlation of PG and PET with dose when using pencil beams was evident. PG imaging was found to be potentially advantageous especially for small tumors in the presence of high tissue heterogeneities. Including the effects of detector acceptance and efficiency may hold PET superior in terms of the amplitude of the detected signal (depending on the future development of PG detection technology), but the ability to perform online measurements and avoid signal disintegration (due to washout) with PG are important factors that can outweigh the benefits of higher detection sensitivity.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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