PURPOSE Proton treatment slots are a limited resource. Therefore, we consider combined proton-photon treatments in which most fractions are delivered with photons and only a few with protons. We demonstrate how both modalities can be combined to optimally capitalize on the proton's ability to reduce normal tissue dose.
METHODS An optimal combined treatment must account for fractionation effects. We therefore perform simultaneous optimization of intensity-modulated proton (IMPT) and photon (IMRT) plans based on their cumulative biologically effective dose (BED). We demonstrate the method for a sacral chordoma patient, in whom the gross tumor volume (GTV) abuts bowel and rectum.
RESULTS In an optimal combination, proton and photon fractions deliver similar doses to bowel and rectum to protect these dose-limiting normal tissues through fractionation. However, proton fractions deliver, on average, higher doses to the GTV. Thereby, the photon dose bath is reduced. An optimized 30-fraction treatment with 10 IMPT fractions achieved more than 50% of the integral dose reduction in the gastrointestinal tract that is possible with 30 IMPT fractions (compared to 33% for a simple proton-photon combination in which both modalities deliver the same target dose).
CONCLUSIONS A limited number of proton fractions can best be used if protons hypofractionate parts of the GTV while maintaining near-uniform fractionation in dose-limiting normal tissues.