The goal of radiation therapy is to administer a therapeutic dose of radiation to a target while limiting the side effects caused by delivering the dose to surrounding tissues and vital organs. The ongoing pursuit to achieve an optimal dose distribution has prompted the radiation therapy profession to develop new techniques that incorporate advances in technology. In radiation therapy today, modern techniques that include three-dimensional conformal radiation therapy (3D-CRT) and intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) are routinely used in the treatment of cancers. Compared with 3D-CRT, IMRT is capable of producing dose distributions that conform to the planning treatment volume and deliver a reduced dose to surrounding tissues and vital organs. This has come with the cost of increased treatment time and a larger volume of normal tissue receiving low radiation doses. Most recently, there has been considerable interest in the rotating gantry IMRT techniques, tomotherapy and volumetric-modulated arc therapy (VMAT). Tomotherapy is a dedicated treatment system that is best described as a combination of a computed tomography scanner and a linear accelerator. In tomotherapy, treatment is delivered using a rotating fan beam. A therapeutic dose is delivered when a patient is translated smoothly through the bore of the machine as its gantry continuously rotates. Tomotherapy is capable of producing high-quality plans that increasingly spare dose to surrounding organs at risk. In VMAT, treatment is delivered on a linear accelerator using a cone beam that rotates around the patient. The cone beam is modulated by dynamic multileaf collimation, variable dose rate and variable gantry speed to generate IMRT-quality dose distributions in a single optimized arc around the patient. VMAT treatments can significantly reduce the time and monitor units required to deliver a patient’s treatment. Conventional IMRT, tomotherapy and VMAT typically produce dose distributions of similar quality. Which technique is most suited to treat a patient will depend on considerations such as the availability of the specific treatment type and its impact on the utilization of departmental planning and treatment resources.
Journal of Medical Imaging and Radiation Sciences Vol. 42, Issue 1, p. 37-43