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Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 2020 Feb 1;106(2):430-439. doi: 10.1016/j.ijrobp.2019.10.036. Epub 2019 Oct 31.

Noninferiority Study of Automated Knowledge-Based Planning Versus Human-Driven Optimization Across Multiple Disease Sites.

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Department of Radiation Medicine and Applied Sciences, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, California.
Department of Radiation Medicine and Applied Sciences, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, California. Electronic address:



To evaluate whether automated knowledge-based planning (KBP) (a) is noninferior to human-driven planning across multiple disease sites and (b) systematically affects dosimetric plan quality and variability.


Clinical KBP automated planning routines were developed for prostate, prostatic fossa, hypofractionated lung, and head and neck. Clinical implementation consisted of independent generation of human-generated and KBP plans (145 cases across all sites), followed by blinded plan selection. Reviewing physicians were prompted to select a single plan; when plan equivalence was volunteered, this scored as KBP selection. Plan selection analysis used a noninferiority framework testing the hypothesis that KBP is not worse than human-driven planning (threshold: lower 95% confidence interval [CI] > 0.45 = noninferiority; > 0.5 = superiority). Target and organ-at-risk metrics were compared by dose differencing: ΔDx = Dx, human-Dx, KBP (2-tailed paired t test, Bonferroni-corrected P < .05 significance threshold). To evaluate the aggregated effect of KBP on planning performance, we examined post-KBP dosimetric parameters against 183 plans generated just before KBP implementation (2-tailed unpaired t test, Bonferroni-corrected P < .05).


Across all disease sites, the KBP success rate (physician preferred + equivalent) was noninferior compared with human-driven planning (83 of 145 = 57.2%; range, 49.2%-65.3%) but did not cross the threshold for superiority. The KBP success rate in respective disease sites was superior with head and neck ([22 + 2]/36 = 66.7%; 95% CI, 51%-82%) and noninferior for lung stereotactic body radiation therapy ([21 + 2]/36 = 63.9%; 95% CI, 48%-80%) but did not meet noninferiority criteria with prostate ([16 + 3]/41 = 46.3%; 95% CI, 31%-62%) or prostatic fossa ([17 + 0]/32 = 53.1%; 95% CI, 36%-70%). Prostate, prostatic fossa, and head and neck showed significant differences in KBP-selected plans versus human-selected plans, with KBP generally exhibiting greater organ-at-risk sparing and human plans exhibiting better target homogeneity. Analysis of plan quality pre- and post-KBP showed some reductions in organ doses and quality metric variability in prostate and head and neck.


Fully automated KBP was noninferior to human-driven plan optimization across multiple disease sites. Dosimetric analysis of treatment plans before and after KBP implementation showed a systematic shift to higher plan quality and lower variability with the introduction of KBP.

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