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J Gastrointest Oncol. 2018 Aug;9(4):687-693. doi: 10.21037/jgo.2018.03.14.

Pencil beam scanning versus passively scattered proton therapy for unresectable pancreatic cancer.

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Miami Cancer Institute, Baptist Health South Florida, Miami, FL, USA.
University of Maryland Medical School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA.
University of Florida Proton Therapy Institute, Jacksonville, FL, USA.



With an increasing number of proton centers capable of delivering pencil beam scanning (PBS), understanding the dosimetric differences in PBS compared to passively scattered proton therapy (PSPT) for pancreatic cancer is of interest.


Optimized PBS plans were retrospectively generated for 11 patients with locally advanced pancreatic cancer previously treated with PSPT to 59.4 Gy on a prospective trial. The primary tumor was targeted without elective nodal coverage. The same treatment couch, target coverage and normal tissue dose objectives were used for all plans. A Wilcoxon t-test was performed to compare various dosimetric points between the two plans for each patient.


All target volume coverage goals were met in all PBS and passive scattering (PS) plans, except for the planning target volume (PTV) coverage goal (V100% >95%) which was not met in one PS plan (range, 81.8-98.9%). PBS was associated with a lower median relative dose (102.4% vs. 103.8%) to 10% of the PTV (P=0.001). PBS plans had a lower median duodenal V59.4 Gy (37.4% vs. 40.4%; P=0.014), lower small bowel median V59.4 Gy (0.11% vs. 0.37%; P=0.012), lower stomach median V59.4 Gy (0.01% vs. 0.1%; P=0.023), and lower median dose to 0.1 cc of the spinal cord {35.0 vs. 38.7 Gy [relative biological effectiveness (RBE)]; P=0.001}. Liver dose was higher in PBS plans for median V5 Gy (24.1% vs. 20.2%; P=0.032), V20 Gy (3.2% vs. 2.8%; P=0.010), and V25 Gy (2.6% vs. 2.2%; P=0.019). There was no difference in kidney dose between PBS and PS plans.


Proton therapy for locally advanced pancreatic cancer using PBS was not clearly associated with clinically meaningful reductions in normal tissue dose compared to PS. Some statistically significant improvements in PTV coverage were achieved using PBS. PBS may offer improved conformality for the treatment of irregular targets, and further evaluation of PBS and PS incorporating elective nodal irradiation should be considered.


Pancreas; dosimetry; pancreatic cancer; passive scattering (PS); pencil beam scanning (PBS); proton beam therapy

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