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Phys Imaging Radiat Oncol. 2021 Jul 13;19:60-65. doi: 10.1016/j.phro.2021.07.003. eCollection 2021 Jul.
BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Automatic approaches are widely implemented to automate dose optimization in radiotherapy treatment planning. This study systematically investigates how to configure automatic planning in order to create the best possible plans.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: Automatic plans were generated using protocol based automatic iterative optimization. Starting from a simple automation protocol which consisted of the constraints for targets and organs at risk (OAR), the performance of the automatic approach was evaluated in terms of target coverage, OAR sparing, conformity, beam complexity, and plan quality. More complex protocols were systematically explored to improve the quality of the automatic plans. The protocols could be improved by adding a dose goal on the outer 2 mm of the PTV, by setting goals on strategically chosen subparts of OARs, by adding goals for conformity, and by limiting the leaf motion. For prostate plans, development of an automated post-optimization procedure was required to achieve precise control over the dose distribution. Automatic and manually optimized plans were compared for 20 head and neck (H&N), 20 prostate, and 20 rectum cancer patients.
RESULTS: Based on simple automation protocols, the automatic optimizer was not always able to generate adequate treatment plans. For the improved final configurations for the three sites, the dose was lower in automatic plans compared to the manual plans in 12 out of 13 considered OARs. In blind tests, the automatic plans were preferred in 80% of cases.
CONCLUSIONS: With adequate, advanced, protocols the automatic planning approach is able to create high-quality treatment plans.