Radiotherapy in the presence of contrast agents: a general figure of merit and its application to gold nanoparticles

Stephen McMahon, M.H. Mendenhall, Suneil Jain, Frederick Currell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

148 Citations (Scopus)
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Delivering sufficient dose to tumours while sparing surrounding tissue is one of the primary challenges of radiotherapy, and in common practice this is typically achieved by using highly penetrating MV photon beams and spatially shaping dose. However, there has been a recent increase in interest in the possibility of using contrast agents with high atomic number to enhance the dose deposited in tumours when used in conjunction with kV x-rays, which see a significant increase in absorption due to the heavy element's high-photoelectric cross-section at such energies. Unfortunately, the introduction of such contrast agents significantly complicates the comparison of different source types for treatment efficacy, as the dose deposited now depends very strongly on the exact composition of the spectrum, making traditional metrics such as beam quality less valuable. To address this, a 'figure of merit' is proposed, which yields a value which enables the direct comparison of different source types for tumours at different depths inside a patient. This figure of merit is evaluated for a 15 MV LINAC source and two 150 kVp sources (both of which make use of a tungsten target, one with conventional aluminium filtration, while the other uses a more aggressive thorium filter) through analytical methods as well as numerical models, considering tissue treated with a realistic concentration and uptake ratio of gold nanoparticle contrast agents (10 mg ml(-1) concentration in 'tumour' volume, 10: 1 uptake ratio). Finally, a test case of human neck phantom is considered with a similar contrast agent to compare the abstract figure to a more realistic treatment situation. Good agreement was found both between the different approaches to calculate the figure of merit, and between the figure of merit and the effectiveness in a more realistic patient scenario. Together, these observations suggest that there is the potential for contrast-enhanced kilovoltage radiation to be a useful therapeutic tool for a number of classes of tumour on dosimetric considerations alone, and they point to the need for further research in this area.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5635-5651
Number of pages17
JournalPhysics in Medicine and Biology
Issue number20
Early online date23 Sep 2008
Publication statusPublished - 21 Oct 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology


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