Ultra-high dose rate transmission beam proton therapy for conventionally fractionated head and neck cancer: Treatment planning and dose rate distributions

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Transmission beam (TB) proton therapy (PT) uses single, high energy beams with Bragg-peak behind the target, sharp penumbras and simplified planning/delivery. TB facilitates ultra-high dose-rates (UHDRs, e.g., ≥40 Gy/s), which is a requirement for the FLASH-effect. We investigated (1) plan quality for conventionally-fractionated head-and-neck cancer treatment using spot-scanning proton TBs, intensity-modulated PT (IMPT) and photon volumetric-modulated arc therapy (VMAT); (2) UHDR-metrics. VMAT, 3-field IMPT and 10-field TB-plans, delivering 70/54.25 Gy in 35 fractions to boost/elective volumes, were compared (n = 10 patients). To increase spot peak dose-rates (SPDRs), TB-plans were split into three subplans, with varying spot monitor units and different gantry currents. Average TB-plan organs-at-risk (OAR) sparing was comparable to IMPT: mean oral cavity/body dose were 4.1/2.5 Gy higher (9.3/2.0 Gy lower than VMAT); most other OAR mean doses differed by <2 Gy. Average percentage of dose delivered at UHDRs was 46%/12% for split/non-split TB-plans and mean dose-averaged dose-rate 46/21 Gy/s. Average total beam-on irradiation time was 1.9/3.8 s for split/non-split plans and overall time including scanning 8.9/7.6 s. Conventionally-fractionated proton TB-plans achieved comparable OAR-sparing to IMPT and better than VMAT, with total beam-on irradiation times <10s. If a FLASH-effect can be demonstrated at conventional dose/fraction, this would further improve plan quality and TB-protons would be a suitable delivery system.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1859
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2 Apr 2021


  • Head-and-neck cancer
  • Proton transmission beams
  • Treatment planning
  • Ultrahigh dose-rate

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