Theoretical dosimetric evaluation of carbon and oxygen minibeam radiation therapy

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Charged particles have several advantages over x-ray radiations, both in terms of physics and radiobiology. The combination of these advantages with those of minibeam radiation therapy (MBRT) could help enhancing the therapeutic index for some cancers with poor prognosis. Among the different ions explored for therapy, carbon ions are considered to provide the optimum physical and biological characteristics. Oxygen could be advantageous due to a reduced oxygen enhancement ratio along with a still moderate biological entrance dose. The aforementioned reasons justified an in-depth evaluation of the dosimetric features of carbon and oxygen minibeam radiation therapy to establish the interest of further explorations of this avenue.

Materials and methods

The GATE/Geant4 6.2 Monte Carlo simulation platform was employed to simulate arrays of rectangular carbon and oxygen minibeams (600 μm × 2 cm) at a water phantom entrance. They were assumed to be generated by means of a magnetic focusing. The irradiations were performed with a 2-cm-long spread-out Bragg peak (SOBP) centered at 7-cm-depth. Several center-to-center (c-t-c) distances were considered. Peak and valley doses, as well as peak-to-valley dose ratio (PVDR) and the relative contribution of nuclear fragments and electromagnetic processes were assessed. In addition, the type and proportion of the secondary nuclear fragments were evaluated in both peak and valley regions.


Carbon and oxygen MBRT lead to very similar dose distributions. No significant advantage of oxygen over carbon ions was observed from physical point of view. Favorable dosimetric features were observed for both ions. Thanks to the reduced lateral scattering, the standard shape of the depth dose curves (in the peaks) is maintained even for submillimetric beam sizes. When a narrow c-t-c is considered (910-980 μm), a (quasi) homogenization of the dose can be obtained at the target, while a spatial fractionation of the dose is maintained in the proximal normal tissues with low PVDR. In contrast when a larger c-t-c is used (3500 μm) extremely high PVDR (≥ 50) are obtained in normal tissues, corresponding to very low valley doses. This suggests that carbon and oxygen MBRT might lead to a significant reduction of normal tissue complication probability. The main participant to the valley doses are secondary nuclear products at all depths. Among them the highest yield in normal tissues corresponds to the lightest fragments, neutrons and protons. Heavier fragments are dominant in the valleys only at the target position, which might favor tumor control.


The computed dose distributions suggest that a spatial fractionation of the dose combined to the use of submillimetric field sizes might allow profiting from the high efficiency of carbon and oxygen ions for the treatment of radioresistant tumors, while preserving normal tissues. Only biological experiments could confirm the shifting of the normal tissue complication probability curves. The authors’ results support the further exploration of this avenue.

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