Quantitative Analysis of Three-dimensional Conformal Radiotherapy Techniques for Posterior Fossa Treatment in Children

Robert D. Timmerman, Marveen Ewing, Merideth Donges, Julie Wilson, Regina Jakacki, Marcus E. Randall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Numerous beam directions using 3-D conformal techniques can be employed in treating tumors in the posterior fossa, each with characteristic normal tissue exposure along the entrance and exit trajectory. A representative variety of beam configurations were modeled in a modern computer planning system initially with the entire posterior fossa as the target. These beams were quantitatively scored using criteria based on integral doses for both low dose and high dose effects encompassing a variety of critical normal structures, thus identifying strengths and weaknesses of each beam. By blocking portions of a particular beam accounting for unfavorable scores, a map of "zones" within the posterior fossa ideally treated by a certain beam or beams could be constructed. No universally ideal photon beam arrangement for the entire posterior fossa target could be identified. However, using single beam analysis, the strengths and weaknesses of particular strategies could be quantified. For example, vertex beams treating the cerebellar hemispheres allow the greatest sparing of cochlea and hypothalamus but at the cost of increased low to moderate dose to the supratentorial brain. Using the constructed maps identifying "zones" appropriately treated by a given beam or beams, three-dimensional conformal treatment plans with favorable dose-volume statistics can be designed based on previously defined normal tissue tolerance considerations. It is shown how this approach can be individualized based on specific patient characteristics (e.g., age). We conclude that radiotherapy directed to the posterior fossa can be optimized based on systematic assessment of individual beam contributions to normal tissues. This technique allows fast selection of treatment beams based on known normal tissue anatomical and tolerance information. Further studies will be required regarding long term effects of various radiation doses on specific volumes of normal tissue in order to individualize beam selection. When treating children, knowledgeable consideration of these beam characteristics can help avoid late effects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)587-593
Number of pages7
JournalTechnology in Cancer Research and Treatment
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2003


  • Conformal radiotherapy
  • Medulloblastoma
  • Pediatric
  • Posterior fossa neoplasms

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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