TU-EF-304-09: Quantifying the Biological Effects of Therapeutic Protons by LET Spectrum Analysis




To correlate in vitro cell kill with linear energy transfer (LET) spectra using Monte Carlo simulations and knowledge obtained from previous high-throughput in vitro proton relative biological effectiveness (RBE) measurements.


The Monte Carlo simulation toolkit Geant4 was used to design the experimental setups and perform the dose, dose-averaged LET, and LET spectra calculations. The clonogenic assay was performed using the H460 lung cancer cell line in standard 6-well plates. Using two different experimental setups, the same dose and dose-averaged LET (12.6 keV/µm) was delivered to the cell layer; however, each respective energy or LET spectrum was different. We quantified the dose contributions from high-LET (≥10 keV/µm, threshold determined by previous RBE measurements) events in the LET spectra separately for these two setups as 39% and 53%. 8 dose levels with 1 Gy increments were delivered. The photon reference irradiation was performed using 6 MV x-rays from a LINAC.


The survival curves showed that both proton irradiations demonstrated an increased RBE compared to the reference photon irradiation. Within the proton-irradiated cells, the setup with 53% dose contribution from high-LET events exhibited the higher biological effectiveness.


The experimental results indicate that the dose-averaged LET may not be an appropriate indicator to quantify the biological effects of protons when the LET spectrum is broad enough to contain both low- and high-LET events. Incorporating the LET spectrum distribution into robust intensity-modulated proton therapy optimization planning may provide more accurate biological dose distribution than using the dose-averaged LET.

NIH Program Project Grant 2U19CA021239-35