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Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 1994 Jul 30;29(5):1105-17.

Three-dimensional radiation treatment planning study for patients with carcinoma of the lung.

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  • 1Radiation Oncology Center, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO 63110.



Several reports in the literature suggest that local-regional control and possibly survival could be improved for inoperable nonsmall cell lung cancer if the radiation dose to the target volume could be increased. Higher doses, however, bring with them the potential for increased side effects and complications of normal tissues. Three-dimensional treatment planning has shown significant potential for improving radiation treatment planning in several sites, both for tumor coverage and for sparing of normal tissue from high doses of radiation and, thus, has the potential of developing radiation therapy techniques that result in uncomplicated local-regional control of lung cancer. We have studied the feasibility of large-scale implementation of true three-dimensional technologies in the treatment of patients with cancers of the thorax.


CT scans were performed on 10 patients with inoperable nonsmall cell lung cancer to obtain full volumetric image data, and therapy was planned on our three-dimensional radiotherapy treatment planning system. Target volumes were determined using the new ICRU nomenclature--Gross Tumor Volume, Clinical Target Volume, and Planning Target Volume. Plans were performed according to our standard treatment policies based on traditional two-dimensional radiotherapy treatment planning methodologies and replanned using noncoplanar three-dimensional beam techniques. The results were quantitatively compared using dose-volume histograms, dose-surface displays, and dose statistics.


Target volume delineation remains a difficult problem for lung cancer. Defining Gross Tumor Volume and Clinical Target Volume may depend on window and level settings of the three-dimensional radiotherapy treatment planning system, suggesting that target volume delineation on hard copy film is inadequate. Our study shows that better tumor coverage is possible with three-dimensional plans. Dose to critical structures (e.g., the heart) could often be reduced (or at least remain acceptable) using noncoplanar beams even with dose escalation to 75 to 80 Gy for the planning volume surrounding the Gross Target Volume.


Commonly used beam arrangements for treatment of lung cancer appear to be inadequate to safely deliver tumor doses of higher than 70 Gy. Although conventional treatment techniques may be adequate for tumor coverage, they are inadequate for sparing of normal tissues when the prescription dose is escalated. The ability to use noncoplanar fields for such patients is a major advantage of three-dimensional planning. This capability led to better tumor coverage and reduced dose to critical normal tissues. However, this advantage was achieved at the expense of a greater time commitment by the treatment planning staff (particularly the radiation oncologist) and a greater complexity of treatment delivery. In summary, three-dimensional radiotherapy treatment planning appears to provide the radiation oncologist with the necessary tools to increase tumor dose, which may lead to increased local-regional control in patients with lung cancer while maintaining normal tissue doses at acceptable tolerance levels.

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