Intensity modulation to improve dose uniformity with tangential breast radiotherapy: Initial clinical experience

Larry L. Kestin, Michael B. Sharpe, Robert C. Frazier, Frank A. Vicini, Di Yan, Richard C. Matter, Alvaro A. Martinez, John W. Wong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

260 Scopus citations


Purpose: We present a new technique to improve dose uniformity and potentially reduce acute toxicity with tangential whole-breast radiotherapy (RT) using intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT). The technique of multiple static multileaf collimator (sMLC) segments was used to facilitate IMRT.Methods and Materials: Ten patients with early-stage breast cancer underwent treatment planning for whole-breast RT using a new method of IMRT. The three-dimensional (3D) dose distribution was first calculated for equally weighted, open tangential fields (i.e., no blocks, no wedges). Dose calculation was corrected for density effects with the pencil-beam superposition algorithm. Separate MLC segments were constructed to conform to the beam's-eye-view projections of the 3D isodose surfaces in 5% increments, ranging from the 120% to 100% isodose surface. Medial and lateral MLC segments that conformed to the lung tissue in the fields were added to reduce transmission. Using the beam-weight optimization utility of the 3D treatment planning system, the sMLC segment weights were then determined to deliver the most uniform dose to 100 reference points that were uniformly distributed throughout the breast. The accuracy of the dose calculation and resultant IMRT delivery was verified with film dosimetry performed on an anthropomorphic phantom. For each patient, the dosimetric uniformity within the breast tissue was evaluated for IMRT and two other treatment techniques. The first technique modeled conventional practice where wedges were derived manually without consideration of inhomogeneity effects (or density correction). A recalculation was performed with density correction to represent the actual dose delivered. In the second technique, the wedges were optimized using the same beam-weight optimization utility as the IMRT plan and included density correction. All dose calculations were based on the pencil-beam superposition algorithm.Results: For the sMLC technique, treatment planning required approximately 60 min. Treatment delivery (including patient setup) required approximately 8-10 min. Film dosimetry measurements performed on an anthropomorphic phantom generally agreed with calculations to within ± 3%. Compared to the wedge techniques, IMRT with sMLC segments resulted in smaller 'hot spots' and a lower maximum dose, while maintaining similar coverage of the treatment volume. A median of only 0.1% of the treatment volume received ≥ 110% of the prescribed dose when using IMRT versus 10% with standard wedges. A total of 6-8 segments were required with the majority of the dose delivered via the open segments. The addition of the lung-block segments to IMRT was of significant benefit for patients with a greater proportion of lung parenchyma within the irradiated volume. Since August 1999, 32 patients have been treated in the clinic with the IMRT technique. No patient experienced RTOG grade III or greater acute skin toxicity.Conclusion: The use of intensity modulation with an sMLC technique for tangential breast RT is an efficient and effective method for achieving uniform dose throughout the breast. It is dosimetrically superior to the treatment techniques that employ only wedges. Preliminary findings reveal minimal or no acute skin reactions for patients with various breast sizes. Copyright (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Inc.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1559-1568
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics
Issue number5
StatePublished - Dec 1 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Breast neoplasms
  • Breast-conserving therapy
  • Intensity modulation
  • Lumpectomy
  • Radiotherapy
  • Tangent fields

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiation
  • Oncology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Cancer Research


Dive into the research topics of 'Intensity modulation to improve dose uniformity with tangential breast radiotherapy: Initial clinical experience'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this