Bringing FLASH to the Clinic: Treatment Planning Considerations for Ultrahigh Dose-Rate Proton Beams

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Purpose: Preclinical research into ultrahigh dose rate (eg, ≥40 Gy/s) “FLASH”-radiation therapy suggests a decrease in side effects compared with conventional irradiation while maintaining tumor control. When FLASH is delivered using a scanning proton beam, tissue becomes subject to a spatially dependent range of dose rates. This study systematically investigates dose rate distributions and delivery times for proton FLASH plans using stereotactic lung irradiation as the paradigm. Methods and Materials: Stereotactic lung radiation therapy FLASH-plans, using 244 MeV scanning proton transmission beams, with the Bragg peak behind the body, were made for 7 patients. Evaluated parameters were dose rate distribution within a beam, overall irradiation time, number of times tissue is irradiated, and quality of the FLASH-plans compared with the clinical volumetric-modulated arc therapy (VMAT) plans. Results: Sparing of lungs, thoracic wall, and heart in the FLASH-plans was equal to or better than that in the VMAT-plans. For a spot peak dose rate (SPDR, the dose rate in the middle of the spot) of 100 Gy/s, ∼40% of dose is delivered at FLASH dose rates, and for SPDR = 360 Gy/s this increased to ∼75%. One-hundred percent FLASH dose rate cannot be achieved owing to small contributions from distant spots with lower dose rates. The total irradiation time varied between 300 to 730 ms, and around 85% of the dose-receiving body volume was irradiated by either 1 or 2 beams. Conclusions: Clinical implementation of FLASH using scanning proton beams requires multiple treatment planning considerations: dosimetric, temporal, and spatial parameters all seem important. The FLASH efficiency of a scanning proton beam increases with SPDR. The methodology proposed in this proof-of-principle study provides a framework for evaluating the FLASH characteristics of scanning proton beam plans and can be adapted as FLASH parameters are better defined. It currently seems logical to optimize plans for the shortest delivery time, maximum amount of high dose rate coverage, and maximum amount of single beam and continuous irradiation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)621-629
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2020

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