Validation of the proton range accuracy and optimization of CT calibration curves utilizing range probing

Arturs Meijers*, Jeffrey Free, Dirk Wagenaar, Sylvain Deffet, Antje-Christin Knopf, Johannes A Langendijk, Stefan Both

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Proton therapy is affected by range uncertainty, which is partly caused by an ambiguous conversion from x-ray attenuation to proton stopping power. CT calibration curves, or Hounsfield look-up tables (HLUTs), are institution-specific and may be a source of systematic errors in treatment planning. A range probing method to verify, optimize and validate HLUTs for proton treatment is proposed. An initial HLUT was determined according to the stoichiometric approach. For HLUT validation, three types of animal tissue phantoms were prepared: a pig's head, 'thorax' and femur. CT scans of the phantoms were taken and a structure, simulating a water slab, was added on the scan distal to the phantoms to mimic the detector used for integral depth-dose measurements. The CT scans were imported into the TPS to calculate individual pencil beams directed through the phantoms. The phantoms were positioned at the therapy system isocenter using x-ray imaging. Shoot-through pencil beams were delivered, and depth-dose profiles were measured using a multi-layer ionization chamber. Measured depth-dose curves were compared to the calculated curves and the range error per spot was determined. Based on the water equivalent path length (WEPL) of individual spot, a range error margin was defined. Ratios between measured error and theoretical margin were calculated per spot. The HLUT optimization was performed by identifying systematic shifts of the mean range error per phantom and minimizing the ratios between range errors and uncertainty margins. After optimization, the ratios of the actual range error and the uncertainty margin over the complete data set did not exceed 0.75 (1.5 SD), indicating that the actual errors are covered by the theoretical uncertainty recipe. The feasibility of using range probing to assess range errors was demonstrated. The theoretical uncertainty margins in the institution-specific setting potentially may be reduced by ∼25%.

Original languageEnglish
Article number03NT02
Number of pages11
JournalPhysics in Medicine and Biology
Issue number3
Early online date2-Jan-2020
Publication statusPublished - 4-Feb-2020


  • proton therapy
  • range uncertainty
  • CT calibration
  • HEAD
  • TOOL

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