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Clin Oncol (R Coll Radiol). 2006 May;18(4):277-82.

The inaugural Frank Ellis Lecture--latrogenic cancer: the impact of intensity-modulated radiotherapy.

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Center for Radiological Research, Columbia University Medical Center, College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, NY 10032, USA.


It is an honour and personal pleasure to give the inaugural Frank Ellis Lecture to celebrate his 100th birthday, and to acknowledge his enormous contributions to radiation oncology. Intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT) allows dose to be concentrated in the tumour volume while sparing normal tissues. However, the downside to IMRT is the potential to increase the number of radiation-induced second cancers because more fields are used which involves a bigger volume of normal tissue exposed to lower doses. It has been estimated that IMRT may double the incidence of solid cancers in long-term survivors. This may be acceptable in older patients if balanced by an improvement in local tumour control and reduced toxicity. On the other hand, the incidence of second cancers is higher in children, so that doubling it may not be acceptable. IMRT represents a special case for children. First, they are more sensitive to radiation-induced cancer than adults. Second, radiation scattered from the treatment volume is more important in the small body of the child. Third, there is the question of genetic susceptibility, as many childhood cancers involve a germline mutation. The levels of leakage radiation in current Linacs can be reduced, but the cost would be substantial. An alternative strategy is to replace X-rays with protons. This is an advantage only if the proton machine uses a pencil scanning beam, as passive modulation of a scattering foil produces neutrons, which results in an effective dose to the patient higher than that characteristic of IMRT.

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