The Role of Cobalt-60 Source in Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy: From Modeling Finite Sources to Treatment Planning and Conformal Dose Delivery
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Cobalt-60 (Co-60) units played an integral role in radiation therapy from the mid-1950s to the 1970s. Although they continue to be used to treat cancer in some parts of the world, their role has been significantly reduced due to the invention of medical linear accelerators. A number of groups have indicated a strong potential for Co-60 units in modern radiation therapy. The Medical Physics group at the Cancer Center of the Southeastern Ontario and Queen’s University has shown the feasibility of Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT) via simple conformal treatment planning and dose delivery using a Co-60 unit. In this thesis, initial Co-60 tomotherapy planning investigations on simple uniform phantoms are extended to actual clinical cases based on patient CT data. The planning is based on radiation dose data from a clinical Co-60 unit fitted with a multileaf collimator (MLC) and modeled in the EGSnrc Monte Carlo system. An in house treatment planning program is used to calculate IMRT dose distributions. Conformal delivery in a single slice on a uniform phantom based on sequentially delivered pencil beams is verified by Gafchromic film. Volumetric dose distributions for Co-60 serial tomotherapy are then generated for typical clinical sites that had been treated at our clinic by conventional 6MV IMRT using Varian Eclipse treatment plans. The Co-60 treatment plans are compared with the clinical IMRT plans using conventional matrices such as dose volume histograms (DVH). Dose delivery based on simultaneously opened MLC leaves is also explored and a novel MLC segmentation method is proposed. In order to increase efficiency of dose calculations, a novel convolution based fluence model for treatment planning is also proposed. The ion chamber measurements showed that the Monte Carlo modeling of the beam data under the MIMiC MLC is accurate. The film measurements from the uniform phantom irradiations confirm that IMRT plans from our in-house treatment planning system are deliverable. Comparing the Co-60 dose distributions and DVHs to the IMRT plans from the clinic indicates that Co-60 is able to provide similar dose conformality to targets and dose sparing to critical organs. The results of the novel MLC segmentation algorithm and the photon fluence model proposed in this work compared well with the Monte Carlo calculations. In summary, the investigations presented in this thesis confirm that Co-60 tomotherapy is indeed capable of providing state-of-the-art conformal dose delivery. We have shown that the perceived beam limitations often identified with Co 60 (e.g., lower penetration, source size artifacts under small field collimation, and larger penumbra) are negligible when using intensity modulated techniques.