FusionArc optimization: A hybrid volumetric modulated arc therapy (VMAT) and intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) planning strategy

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Purpose:To introduce a hybrid volumetric modulated arc therapy/intensity modulated radiation therapy (VMAT/IMRT) optimization strategy called FusionArc that combines the delivery efficiency of single-arc VMAT with the potentially desirable intensity modulation possible with IMRT.Methods:A beamlet-based inverse planning system was enhanced to combine the advantages of VMAT and IMRT into one comprehensive technique. In the hybrid strategy, baseline single-arc VMAT plans are optimized and then the current cost function gradients with respect to the beamlets are used to define a metric for predicting which beam angles would benefit from further intensity modulation. Beams with the highest metric values (called the gradient factor) are converted from VMAT apertures to IMRT fluence, and the optimization proceeds with the mixed variable set until convergence or until additional beams are selected for conversion. One phantom and two clinical cases were used to validate the gradient factor and characterize the FusionArc strategy. Comparisons were made between standard IMRT, single-arc VMAT, and FusionArc plans with one to five IMRT/hybrid beams.Results:The gradient factor was found to be highly predictive of the VMAT angles that would benefit plan quality the most from beam modulation. Over the three cases studied, a FusionArc plan with three converted beams achieved superior dosimetric quality with reductions in final cost ranging from 26.4% to 48.1% compared to single-arc VMAT. Additionally, the three beam FusionArc plans required 22.4%-43.7% fewer MU/Gy than a seven beam IMRT plan. While the FusionArc plans with five converted beams offer larger reductions in final cost—32.9%-55.2% compared to single-arc VMAT—the decrease in MU/Gy compared to IMRT was noticeably smaller at 12.2%-18.5%, when compared to IMRT.Conclusions:A hybrid VMAT/IMRT strategy was implemented to find a high quality compromise between gantry-angle and intensity-based degrees of freedom. This optimization method will allow patients to be simultaneously planned for dosimetric quality and delivery efficiency without switching between delivery techniques. Example phantom and clinical cases suggest that the conversion of only three VMAT segments to modulated beams may result in a good combination of quality and efficiency.

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