Purpose: The interplay effect between dynamic pencil proton beams and motion of the lung tumor presents a challenge in treating lung cancer patients in pencil beam scanning (PBS) proton therapy. The main purpose of the current study was to investigate the interplay effect on the volumetric repainting lung plans with beam delivery in alternating order ("down" and "up" directions), and explore the number of volumetric repaintings needed to achieve acceptable lung cancer PBS proton plan.

Method: The current retrospective study included ten lung cancer patients. The total dose prescription to the clinical target volume (CTV) was 70 Gy(RBE) with a fractional dose of 2 Gy(RBE). All treatment plans were robustly optimized on all ten phases in the 4DCT data set. The Monte Carlo algorithm was used for the 4D robust optimization, as well as for the final dose calculation. The interplay effect was evaluated for both the nominal (i.e., without repainting) as well as volumetric repainting plans. The interplay evaluation was carried out for each of the ten different phases as the starting phases. Several dosimetric metrics were included to evaluate the worst-case scenario (WCS) and bandwidth based on the results obtained from treatment delivery starting in ten different breathing phases.

Results: The number of repaintings needed to meet the criteria 1 (CR1) of target coverage (D95% ≥ 98% and D99% ≥ 97%) ranged from 2 to 10. The number of repaintings needed to meet the CR1 of maximum dose (ΔD1% < 1.5%) ranged from 2 to 7. Similarly, the number of repaintings needed to meet CR1 of homogeneity index (ΔHI < 0.03) ranged from 3 to 10. For the target coverage region, the number of repaintings needed to meet CR1 of bandwidth (

Conclusion: The number of repaintings required to mitigate the interplay effect in PBS lung cancer (tumor motion < 15 mm) was found to be highly patient dependent. For the volumetric repainting with an alternating order, a patient-specific interplay evaluation strategy must be adopted. Determining the optimal number of repaintings based on the bandwidth and WCS approach could mitigate the interplay effect in PBS lung cancer treatment.

Keywords: 4D robust optimization; Monte Carlo; interplay effect; lung cancer; pencil beam scanning.

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© 2021 The Authors. Journal of Applied Clinical Medical Physics published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. on behalf of American Association of Physicists in Medicine.

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