Neutron therapy is a high linear energy transfer modality that is useful for the treatment of radioresistant head and neck (H&N) cancers. It has been limited to 3-dimensioanal conformal-based fast-neutron therapy (3DCNT), but recent technical advances have enabled the clinical implementation of intensity-modulated neutron therapy (IMNT). This study evaluated the comparative dosimetry of IMNT and 3DCNT plans for the treatment of H&N cancers.
Seven H&N IMNT plans were retrospectively created for patients previously treated with 3DCNT at the University of Washington (Seattle). A custom RayStation model with neutron-specific scattering kernels was used for inverse planning. Organ-at-risk (OAR) objectives from the original 3DCNT plan were initially used and were then systematically reduced to investigate the feasibility of improving a therapeutic ratio, defined as the ratio of the mean tumor to OAR dose. The IMNT and 3DCNT plan quality was evaluated using the therapeutic ratio, isodose contours, and dose volume histograms.
When compared with the 3DCNT plans, IMNT reduces the OAR dose for the equivalent tumor coverage. Moreover, IMNT is most advantageous for OARs in close spatial proximity to the target. For the 7 patients with H&N cancers examined, the therapeutic ratio for IMNT increased by an average of 56% when compared with the 3DCNT. The maximum OAR dose was reduced by an average of 20.5% and 20.7% for the spinal cord and temporal lobe, respectively. The mean dose to the larynx decreased by an average of 80%.
The IMNT significantly decreases the OAR doses compared with 3DCNT and provides comparable tumor coverage. Improvements in the therapeutic ratio with IMNT are especially significant for dose-limiting OARs near tumor targets. Moreover, IMNT provides superior sparing of healthy tissues and creates significant new opportunities to improve the care of patients with H&N cancers treated with neutron therapy.