TH-CD-201-07: Experimentally Investigating Proton Energy Deposition On the Microscopic Scale Using Fluorescence Nuclear Track Detectors




In order to further understand the interplay between proton physics and radiobiology it is necessary to consider proton energy deposition on the microscopic scale. In this work we used Fluorescent Nuclear Track Detectors (FNTDs) to experimentally investigate proton energy deposition, track-by-track.


We irradiated 8×4×0.5mm3 FNTD chips (Landauer Inc) at seven water depths along a pristine proton Bragg peak with range=12cm. After irradiation, the FNTDs were scanned using a confocal microscope (FV1200, Olympus) with a high-power red laser and an oil-immersion objective lens (UPLSAPO60XO, NA=1.35). 10 slice image stacks were acquired with a slice-thickness of 2µm at multiple positions across each FNTD. Image-based analyses of track radius and track “mass” (integrated signal intensity) were performed using trackpy. For comparison, Monte Carlo simulated data were obtained using TOPAS and TOPAS-nBio.


Excellent correlation was observed between median track mass and TOPAS dose-averaged linear energy transfer. The resolution of the imaging system was determined insufficient to detect a relationship between track radius and exposure depth. Histograms of track mass (i) displayed strong repeatability across positions within an FNTD and (ii) varied in peak position and shape as a function of depth. TOPAS-nBio simulations implemented on the nanometer scale using physics lists from GEANT4-DNA yielded energy deposition distributions for individual protons and electrons scored within a virtual FNTD. Good agreement was found between these simulated datasets and the FNTD track mass distributions.


Robust experimental measurements of the integral energy deposited by individual proton tracks can be performed using FNTDs. Monte Carlo simulations offer an exceedingly powerful approach to the quantification of proton energy deposition on the microscopic scale, but whilst they have been well validated at the macroscopic level, their microscopic validation is far from complete. Our results demonstrate that FNTD-based study can play an important role in addressing this deficit.

Tracy Underwood gratefully acknowledges the support of the European Commission under an FP7 Marie Curie International Outgoing Fellowship for Career Development (#630064).