Recent changes to the guidelines for screening and early diagnosis of lung cancer have increased the interest in preserving post-radiotherapy lung function. Current investigational approaches are based on spatially mapping functional regions and generating regional avoidance plans that preferentially spare highly ventilated/perfused lung. A potentially critical, yet overlooked, aspect of functional avoidance is radiation injury to peripheral airways, which serve as gas conduits to and from functional lung regions. Dose redistribution based solely on regional function may cause irreparable damage to the 'supply chain'. To address this deficiency, we propose the functionally weighted airway sparing (FWAS) method. FWAS (i) maps the bronchial pathways to each functional sub-lobar lung volume; (ii) assigns a weighting factor to each airway based on the relative contribution of the sub-volume to overall lung function; and (iii) creates a treatment plan that aims to preserve these functional pathways. To evaluate it, we used four cases from a retrospective cohort of SAbR patients treated for lung cancer. Each patient's airways were auto-segmented from a diagnostic-quality breath-hold CT using a research virtual bronchoscopy software. A ventilation map was generated from the planning 4DCT to map regional lung function. For each terminal airway, as resolved by the segmentation software, the total ventilation within the sub-lobar volume supported by that airway was estimated and used as a function-based weighting factor. Upstream airways were weighted based on the cumulative volumetric ventilation supported by corresponding downstream airways. Using a previously developed model for airway radiosensitivity, dose constraints were determined for each airway corresponding to a <5% probability of airway collapse. Airway dose constraints, ventilation scores, and clinical dose constraints were input to a swarm optimization-based inverse planning engine to create a 3D conformal SAbR plan (CRT). The FWAS plans were compared to the patients' prescribed CRT clinical plans and the inverse-optimized clinical plans. Depending on the size and location of the tumour, the FWAS plan showed superior preservation of ventilation due to airflow preservation through open pathways (i.e. cumulative ventilation score from the sub-lobar volumes of open pathways). Improvements ranged between 3% and 23%, when comparing to the prescribed clinical plans, and between 3% and 35%, when comparing to the inverse-optimized clinical plans. The three plans satisfied clinical requirements for PTV coverage and OAR dose constraints. These initial results suggest that by sparing pathways to high-functioning lung subregions it is possible to reduce post-SAbR loss of respiratory function.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging