A comparison of the relative biological effectiveness of low energy electronic brachytherapy sources in breast tissue: a Monte Carlo study

Shane A. White, Brigitte Reniers*, Evelyn E. C. de Jong, Thomas Rusch, Frank Verhaegen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Electronic brachytherapy sources use low energy photons to treat the tumor bed during or after breast-conserving surgery. The relative biological effectiveness of two electronic brachytherapy sources was explored to determine if spectral differences due to source design influenced radiation quality and if radiation quality decreased with distance in the breast. The RBE was calculated through the number of DNA double strand breaks (RBEDSB) using the Monte Carlo damage simulator (MCDS) in combination with other Monte Carlo electron/photon spectrum calculations. 50kVp photons from the Intrabeam (Carl Zeiss Surgical) and Axxent (Xoft) through 40-mm spherical applicators were simulated to account for applicator and tissue attenuation in a variety of breast tissue compositions. 40kVp Axxent photons were also simulated. Secondary electrons (known to be responsible for most DNA damage) spectra at different distance were inputted into MCDS to calculate the RBEDSB. All RBEDSB used a cobalt-60 reference. RBEDSB data was combined with corresponding average photon spectrum energy for the Axxent and applied to model-based average photon energy distributions to produce an RBEDSB map of an accelerated partial breast irradiation (APBI) patient. Both Axxent and Intrabeam 50kVp spectra were shown to have a comparable RBEDSB of between 1.4 and 1.6 at all distances in spite of progressive beam hardening. The Axxent 40kVp also demonstrated a similar RBEDSB at distances. Most RBEDSB variability was dependent on the tissue type as was seen in rib (RBEDSB approximate to 1.4), gland (approximate to 1.55), adipose (approximate to 1.59), skin (approximate to 1.52) and lung (approximate to 1.50). RBEDSB variability between both sources was within 2%. A correlation was shown between RBEDSB and average photon energy and used to produce an RBEDSB map of a dose distribution in an APBI patient dataset. Radiation quality is very similar between electronic brachytherapy sources studied. No significant reductions in RBEDSB were observed with increasing distance from the source.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)383-399
JournalPhysics in Medicine and Biology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jan 2016


  • relative biological effectiveness
  • low energy brachytherapy
  • electronic brachytherapy
  • Monte Carlo


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