Radiation therapy physics
Automatic learning-based beam angle selection for thoracic IMRT
The treatment of thoracic cancer using external beam radiation requires an optimal selection of the radiation beam directions to ensure effective coverage of the target volume and to avoid unnecessary treatment of normal healthy tissues. Intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) planning is a lengthy process, which requires the planner to iterate between choosing beam angles, specifying dose–volume objectives and executing IMRT optimization. In thorax treatment planning, where there are no class solutions for beam placement, beam angle selection is performed manually, based on the planner's clinical experience. The purpose of this work is to propose and study a computationally efficient framework that utilizes machine learning to automatically select treatment beam angles. Such a framework may be helpful for reducing the overall planning workload.
The authors introduce an automated beam selection method, based on learning the relationships between beam angles and anatomical features. Using a large set of clinically approved IMRT plans, a random forest regression algorithm is trained to map a multitude of anatomical features into an individual beam score. An optimization scheme is then built to select and adjust the beam angles, considering the learned interbeam dependencies. The validity and quality of the automatically selected beams evaluated using the manually selected beams from the corresponding clinical plans as the ground truth.
The analysis included 149 clinically approved thoracic IMRT plans. For a randomly selected test subset of 27 plans, IMRT plans were generated using automatically selected beams and compared to the clinical plans. The comparison of the predicted and the clinical beam angles demonstrated a good average correspondence between the two (angular distance 16.8° ± 10°, correlation 0.75 ± 0.2). The dose distributions of the semiautomatic and clinical plans were equivalent in terms of primary target volume coverage and organ at risk sparing and were superior over plans produced with fixed sets of common beam angles. The great majority of the automatic plans (93%) were approved as clinically acceptable by three radiation therapy specialists.
The results demonstrated the feasibility of utilizing a learning-based approach for automatic selection of beam angles in thoracic IMRT planning. The proposed method may assist in reducing the manual planning workload, while sustaining plan quality.