Investigating the potential contribution of inter-track interactions within ultra-high dose-rate proton therapy

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Objective:Laser-accelerated protons offer an alternative delivery mechanism for proton therapy. This technique delivers dose-rates of ≥109Gy/s, many orders of magnitude greater than used clinically. Such ultra-high dose-rates reduce delivery time to nanoseconds, equivalent to the lifetime of reactive chemical species within a biological medium. This leads to the possibility of inter-track interactions between successive protons within a pulse, potentially altering the yields of damaging radicals if they are in sufficient spatial proximity. This work investigates the temporal evolution of chemical species for a range of proton energies and doses to quantify the circumstances required for inter-track interactions, and determine any relevance within ultra-high dose-rate proton therapy.Approach:The TOPAS-nBio Monte Carlo toolkit was used to investigate possible inter-track interactions. Firstly, protons between 0.5 and 100 MeV were simulated to record the radial track dimensions throughout the chemical stage from 1 ps to 1 µs. Using the track areas, the geometric probability of track overlap was calculated for various exposures and timescales. A sample of irradiations were then simulated in detail to compare any change in chemical yields for independently and instantaneously delivered tracks, and validate the analytic model.Main results:Track overlap for a clinical 2 Gy dose was negligible for biologically relevant timepoints for all energies. Overlap probability increased with time after irradiation, proton energy and dose, with a minimum 23 Gy dose required before significant track overlap occurred. Simulating chemical interactions confirmed these results with no change in radical yields seen up to 8 Gy for independently and instantaneously delivered tracks.Significance:These observations suggest that the spatial separation between incident protons is too large for physico-chemical inter-track interactions, regardless of the delivery time, indicating such interactions would not play a role in any potential changes in biological response between laser-accelerated and conventional proton therapy.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPhysics in Medicine and Biology
Early online date02 Feb 2023
Publication statusEarly online date - 02 Feb 2023

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