Cellular signalling effects in high precision radiotherapy

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Radiotherapy is commonly planned on the basis of physical dose received by the tumour and surrounding normal tissue, with margins added to address the possibility of geometric miss. However, recent experimental evidence suggests that intercellular signalling results in a given cell's survival also depending on the dose received by neighbouring cells. A model of radiation-induced cell killing and signalling was used to analyse how this effect depends on dose and margin choices. Effective Uniform Doses were calculated for model tumours in both idealised cases with no delivery uncertainty and more realistic cases incorporating geometric uncertainty. In highly conformal irradiation, a lack of signalling from outside the target leads to reduced target cell killing, equivalent to under-dosing by up to 10% compared to large uniform fields. This effect is significantly reduced when higher doses per fraction are considered, both increasing the level of cell killing and reducing margin sensitivity. These effects may limit the achievable biological precision of techniques such as stereotactic radiotherapy even in the absence of geometric uncertainties, although it is predicted that larger fraction sizes reduce the relative contribution of cell signalling driven effects. These observations may contribute to understanding the efficacy of hypo-fractionated radiotherapy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4551-4564
Number of pages14
JournalPhysics in Medicine and Biology
Issue number11
Early online date20 May 2015
Publication statusPublished - 07 Jun 2015


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