Small bowel toxicity due to radiotherapy treatment of rectal cancer is common. The potential use of intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) to reduce the volume of small bowel irradiated during radiation therapy (RT) for cancer has previously been reported. However, IMRT treatment implementation is relatively difficult for these patients. The PTV is large and has a concave shape, with the small bowel in very close proximity. Therefore, the intensity profile calculated by an inverse planning engine could be highly modulated and complicated to deliver.
In this study, two methods were used to optimise IMRT plans for rectal cancer patients. Scatter contribution when backprojecting dose values to fluence values and a smoothing function were only implemented in the optimisation searching of one method. A common arrangement of five beams, each separated by equal gantry angle, was adopted. With both methods used, the dose coverage of the PTV was satisfactory. Small bowel irradiated to a dose of 95 % was reduced by about 70% as compared to a 3D conformal 3-field treatment technique. However, incorporation of scatter contribution and a smoothing function in the iteration of optimisation searching greatly reduced the degree of modulation in the two-dimensional intensity profiles. Instead of 120–160 step-and-shoot MLC segments only 30–60 segments were necessary to deliver the five intensity profiles. The number of monitor units per fraction was reduced accordingly to about one half. Therefore, by controlling the smoothness of the intensity profiles during optimisation, the produced IMRT plans could be delivered more efficiently. Moreover, the possibility to account for overlap of organs was found to be very valuable to avoid hot spots in these regions and to get the full DVHs of all organs at the same time.