Dose calculation differences between monte carlo and pencil beam depend on the tumor locations and volumes for lung stereotactic body radiation therapy

Tingliang Zhuang, Toufik Djemil, Peng Qi, Anthony Magnelli, Kevin Stephans, Gregory Videtic, Ping Xia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) has been increasingly used as an efficacious treatment modality for early-stage non-small cell lung cancer. The accuracy of dose calculations is compromised due to the presence of inhomogeneity. For the purpose of a consistent prescription, radiation doses were calculated without heterogeneity correction in several RTOG trials. For patients participating in these trials, recalculations of the planned doses with more accurate dose methods could provide better correlations between the treatment outcomes and the planned doses. Using a Monte Carlo (MC) dose calculation algorithm as a gold standard, we compared the recalculated doses with the MC algorithm to the original pencil beam (PB) calculations for our institutional clinical lung SBRT plans. The focus of this comparison is to investigate the volume and location dependence on the differences between the two dose calculations. Thirty-one clinical plans that followed RTOG and other protocol guidelines were retrospectively investigated in this study. Dosimetric parameters, such as D1, D95, and D99 for the PTV and D1 for organs at risk, were compared between two calculations. Correlations of mean lung dose and V20 of lungs between two calculations were investigated. Significant dependence on tumor size and location was observed from the comparisons between the two dose calculation methods. When comparing the PB calculations without heterogeneity correction to the MC calculations with heterogeneity correction, we found that in terms of D95 of PTV: (1) the two calculations resulted in similar D95 for edge tumors with volumes greater than 25.1 cc; (2) an average overestimation of 5% in PB calculations for edge tumors with volumes less than 25.1 cc; and (3) an average overestimation of 9% or underestimation of 3% in PB calculations for island tumors with volumes smaller or greater than 22.6 cc, respectively. With heterogeneity correction, the PB calculations resulted in an average reduction of 23.8% and 15.3% in the D95 for the PTV for island and edge lesions, respectively, when compared to the MC calculations. For organs at risks, very small differences were found among all the comparisons. Excellent correlations for mean dose and V20 of lungs were observed between the two calculations. This study demonstrated that using a single scaling factor may be overly simplified when accounting for the effects of heterogeneity correction. Accurate dose calculations, such as the Monte Carlo algorithms, are highly recommended to understand dose responses in lung SBRT.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)38-51
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of applied clinical medical physics
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Dose calculation
  • Lung SBRT
  • Monte carlo
  • Pencil beam

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiation
  • Instrumentation
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


Dive into the research topics of 'Dose calculation differences between monte carlo and pencil beam depend on the tumor locations and volumes for lung stereotactic body radiation therapy'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this