Evaluation of a Machine-Learning Algorithm for Treatment Planning in Prostate Low-Dose-Rate Brachytherapy

Alexandru Nicolae, Gerard Morton, Hans T. Chung, D. Andrew Loblaw, Suneil Jain, Darren M Mitchell, Lin Lu, Joelle Helou, Motasem Al-Hanaqta, Emily Heath, Ananth Ravi*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This work presents the application of a machine learning (ML) algorithm to automatically generate high-quality, prostate low-dose-rate (LDR) brachytherapy treatment plans. The ML algorithm can mimic characteristics of preoperative treatment plans deemed clinically acceptable by brachytherapists. The planning efficiency, dosimetry, and quality (as assessed by experts) of preoperative plans generated with an ML planning approach was retrospectively evaluated in this study.

Methods and Materials
Preimplantation and postimplantation treatment plans were extracted from 100 high-quality LDR treatments and stored within a training database. The ML training algorithm matches similar features from a new LDR case to those within the training database to rapidly obtain an initial seed distribution; plans were then further fine-tuned using stochastic optimization. Preimplantation treatment plans generated by the ML algorithm were compared with brachytherapist (BT) treatment plans in terms of planning time (Wilcoxon rank sum, α = 0.05) and dosimetry (1-way analysis of variance, α = 0.05). Qualitative preimplantation plan quality was evaluated by expert LDR radiation oncologists using a Likert scale questionnaire.

The average planning time for the ML approach was 0.84 ± 0.57 minutes, compared with 17.88 ± 8.76 minutes for the expert planner (P=.020). Preimplantation plans were dosimetrically equivalent to the BT plans; the average prostate V150% was 4% lower for ML plans (P=.002), although the difference was not clinically significant. Respondents ranked the ML-generated plans as equivalent to expert BT treatment plans in terms of target coverage, normal tissue avoidance, implant confidence, and the need for plan modifications. Respondents had difficulty differentiating between plans generated by a human or those generated by the ML algorithm.

ConclusionsProstate LDR preimplantation treatment plans that have equivalent quality to plans created by brachytherapists can be rapidly generated using ML. The adoption of ML in the brachytherapy workflow is expected to improve LDR treatment plan uniformity while reducing planning time and resources.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)822-829
JournalInternational Journal of Radiation: Oncology - Biology - Physics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 27 Nov 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiation
  • Oncology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Cancer Research


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