Although proton therapy has become a well-established radiation modality, continued efforts are needed to improve our understanding of the molecular and cellular mechanisms occurring during treatment. Such studies are challenging, requiring many resources. The purpose of this study was to create a phantom that would allow multiple in vitro experiments to be irradiated simultaneously with a spot-scanning proton beam.
The setup included a modified patient-couch top coupled with a high-precision robotic arm for positioning. An acrylic phantom was created to hold 4 6-well cell-culture plates at 2 different positions along the Bragg curve in a reproducible manner. The proton treatment plan consisted of 1 large field encompassing all 4 plates with a monoenergetic 76.8-MeV posterior beam. For robust delivery, a mini pyramid filter was used to broaden the Bragg peak (BP) in the depth direction. Both a Markus ionization chamber and EBT3 radiochromic film measurements were used to verify absolute dose.
A treatment plan for the simultaneous irradiation of 2 plates irradiated with high linear energy transfer protons (BP, 7 keV/μm) and 2 plates irradiated with low linear energy transfer protons (entrance, 2.2 keV/μm) was created. Dose uncertainty was larger across the setup for cell plates positioned at the BP because of beam divergence and, subsequently, variable proton-path lengths. Markus chamber measurements resulted in uncertainty values of ±1.8% from the mean dose. Negligible differences were seen in the entrance region (<0.3%).
The proposed proton irradiation setup allows 4 plates to be simultaneously irradiated with 2 different portions (entrance and BP) of a 76.8-MeV beam. Dosimetric uncertainties across the setup are within ±1.8% of the mean dose.