Accelerated iterative beam angle selection in IMRT.

PURPOSE - Iterative methods for beam angle selection (BAS) for intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) planning sequentially construct a beneficial ensemble of beam directions. In a naïve implementation, the nth beam is selected by adding beam orientations one-by-one from a discrete set of candidates to an existing ensemble of (n - 1) beams.

The best beam orientation is identified in a time consuming process by solving the fluence map optimization (FMO) problem for every candidate beam and selecting the beam that yields the largest improvement to the objective function value. This paper evaluates two alternative methods to accelerate iterative BAS based on surrogates for the FMO objective function value.

METHODS - We suggest to select candidate beams not based on the FMO objective function value after convergence but (1) based on the objective function value after five FMO iterations of a gradient based algorithm and (2) based on a projected gradient of the FMO problem in the first iteration. The performance of the objective function surrogates is evaluated based on the resulting objective function values and dose statistics in a treatment planning study comprising three intracranial, three pancreas, and three prostate cases. Furthermore, iterative BAS is evaluated for an application in which a small number of noncoplanar beams complement a set of coplanar beam orientations. This scenario is of practical interest as noncoplanar setups may require additional attention of the treatment personnel for every couch rotation.

RESULTS - Iterative BAS relying on objective function surrogates yields similar results compared to naïve BAS with regard to the objective function values and dose statistics. At the same time, early stopping of the FMO and using the projected gradient during the first iteration enable reductions in computation time by approximately one to two orders of magnitude. With regard to the clinical delivery of noncoplanar IMRT treatments, we could show that optimized beam ensembles using only a few noncoplanar beam orientations often approach the plan quality of fully noncoplanar ensembles.

CONCLUSIONS - We conclude that iterative BAS in combination with objective function surrogates can be a viable option to implement automated BAS at clinically acceptable computation times.

Medical physics. 2016 Mar [Epub]

Mark Bangert, Jan Unkelbach

Department of Medical Physics in Radiation Oncology, German Cancer Research Center-DKFZ, Im Neuenheimer Feld 280, Heidelberg D-69120, Germany., Department of Radiation Oncology, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02114.