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Tool to Ensure Accuracy of Radiation Treatment Plan Will Improve Quality and Save Time for Cancer Patients


It is critical that a cancer treatment plan that uses radiation be checked, and checked again, before patients are exposed to the therapy. Radiation mistakes can reduce survival, increased toxicity, and result in poor tumor control. Evaluating the radiation treatment plan, however, can be time-consuming and labor-intensive, especially in large-scale multi-institutional clinical trials, say radiation physicists at Thomas Jefferson University and at China's Fudan University.

Now, these physicists have collaboratively developed a computer-based plan-quality evaluation program they say improves quality and efficiency for cancer patients participating in clinical trials.

In the May 14 issue of Physics in Medicine and Biology, investigators demonstrates that use of a semi-automated process improves review efficiency by reducing human error and minimizing wait times for patients.

Physicist Jiazhou Wang, MS, from the Department of Radiation Oncology at Fudan University Shanghai Cancer Center and physicist Ying Xiao, PhD, of Thomas Jefferson University lead respective international collaborative team efforts to develop the quality improvement methodology, which can also be used in a clinical setting.

"The tools developed from the study will benefit Chinese radiation oncology departments where a large number of patients are being cared for," says Zhen Zhang, MD, PhD, Chairman of Radiation Oncology at Fudan University Shanghai Cancer Center.

In multi-institutional clinical oncology trials, verifying medical physics plan quality takes time, and is both laborious and costly. This study evaluated reducing the waiting period for treatment by automating critical data parameters for multiple benefits. It measured the effectiveness of an XML (Extensible Markup Language)-based data collection system in plan-quality evaluation.

The study found that there was a slight improvement in data accuracy, but a marked improvement in evaluation time. XML was developed to create a plan evaluation report, which improves the clarity of specific dose-volume and other indices thereby improving communication and simplifying future analysis, says Dr. Xiao.

"As comprehensive radiation treatment technologies become more precise, our ability to effectively evaluate plan quality through improved communication tools among multi-disciplinary physicians and researchers improves patient care," states Adam Dicker, MD, PhD, Professor and Chairman of radiation oncology, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.

Fudan University Shanghai Cancer Center (FUS), one of the largest cancer centers located in Shanghai, will become the first affiliate member of the Radiation Therapy Oncology Group, sponsored by the Department of Radiation Oncology, Thomas Jefferson University, Kimmel Cancer Center. "This historical accomplishment was achieved by a decade of close collaboration between physicians and scientists from Fudan University Shanghai Cancer Center and Thomas Jefferson University," Dr. Dicker says.

This work was funded in part by the NCI P30 grant to the Kimmel Cancer Center, Thomas Jefferson University.

For more information, contact: Jackie Kozloski, 215-955-5296,