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J Radiol Prot. 2018 Jun;38(2):775-792. doi: 10.1088/1361-6498/aabd4f. Epub 2018 Apr 11.

Comparison of normal tissue dose calculation methods for epidemiological studies of radiotherapy patients.

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Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Rockville, MD 20850, United States of America.


Radiation dosimetry is an essential input for epidemiological studies of radiotherapy patients aimed at quantifying the dose-response relationship of late-term morbidity and mortality. Individualised organ dose must be estimated for all tissues of interest located in-field, near-field, or out-of-field. Whereas conventional measurement approaches are limited to points in water or anthropomorphic phantoms, computational approaches using patient images or human phantoms offer greater flexibility and can provide more detailed three-dimensional dose information. In the current study, we systematically compared four different dose calculation algorithms so that dosimetrists and epidemiologists can better understand the advantages and limitations of the various approaches at their disposal. The four dose calculations algorithms considered were as follows: the (1) Analytical Anisotropic Algorithm (AAA) and (2) Acuros XB algorithm (Acuros XB), as implemented in the Eclipse treatment planning system (TPS); (3) a Monte Carlo radiation transport code, EGSnrc; and (4) an accelerated Monte Carlo code, the x-ray Voxel Monte Carlo (XVMC). The four algorithms were compared in terms of their accuracy and appropriateness in the context of dose reconstruction for epidemiological investigations. Accuracy in peripheral dose was evaluated first by benchmarking the calculated dose profiles against measurements in a homogeneous water phantom. Additional simulations in a heterogeneous cylinder phantom evaluated the performance of the algorithms in the presence of tissue heterogeneity. In general, we found that the algorithms contained within the commercial TPS (AAA and Acuros XB) were fast and accurate in-field or near-field, but not acceptable out-of-field. Therefore, the TPS is best suited for epidemiological studies involving large cohorts and where the organs of interest are located in-field or partially in-field. The EGSnrc and XVMC codes showed excellent agreement with measurements both in-field and out-of-field. The EGSnrc code was the most accurate dosimetry approach, but was too slow to be used for large-scale epidemiological cohorts. The XVMC code showed similar accuracy to EGSnrc, but was significantly faster, and thus epidemiological applications seem feasible, especially when the organs of interest reside far away from the field edge.

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