Towards the optimization of ballistics in proton therapy using genetic algorithms: implementation issues

by   François Smekens, et al.

The dose delivered to the planning target volume by proton beams is highly conformal, sparing organs at risk and normal tissues. New treatment planning systems adapted to spot scanning techniques have been recently proposed to simultaneously optimize several fields and thus improve dose delivery. In this paper, we investigate a new optimization framework based on a genetic algorithm approach. This tool is intended to make it possible to explore new schemes of treatment delivery, possibly with future enhanced technologies. The optimization framework is designed to be versatile and to account for many degrees of freedom, without any a priori technological constraint. To test the behavior of our algorithm, we propose in this paper, as an example, to optimize beam fluences, target points and irradiation directions at the same time. The proposed optimization routine takes typically into account several thousands of spots of fixed size. The evolution is carried out by the three standard genetic operators: mutation, crossover and selection. The figure-of-merit (or fitness) is based on an objective function relative to the dose prescription to the tumor and to the limits set for organs at risk and normal tissues. Fluence optimization is carried out via a specific scheme based on a plain gradient with analytical solution. Several specific genetic algorithm issues are addressed: (i) the mutation rate is tuned to balance the search and selection forces, (ii) the initial population is selected using a bootstrap technique and (iii) to scale down the computation time, dose calculations are carried out with a fast analytical ray tracing method and are multi-threaded. In this paper implementation issues of the optimization framework are thoroughly described. The behavior of the proposed genetic algorithm is illustrated in both elementary and clinically-realistic test cases.


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