Functional MRI for radiotherapy dose painting

Uulke A. van der Heide*, Antonetta C. Houweling, Greetje Groenendaal, Regina G. H. Beets-Tan, Philippe Lambin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Modem radiation therapy techniques are exceptionally flexible in the deposition of radiation dose in a target volume. Complex distributions of dose can be delivered reliably, so that the tumor is exposed to a high dose, whereas nearby healthy structures can be avoided. As a result, an increase in curative dose is no longer invariably associated with an increased level of toxicity. This modem technology can be exploited further by modulating the required dose in space so as to match the variation in radiation sensitivity in the tumor. This approach is called dose painting. For dose painting to be effective, functional imaging techniques are essential to identify regions in a tumor that require a higher dose. Several techniques are available in nuclear medicine and radiology. In recent years, there has been a considerable research effort concerning the integration of magnetic resonance imaging (MM) into the external radiotherapy workflow motivated by the superior soft tissue contrast as compared to computed tomography. In MRI, diffusion-weighted MRI reflects the cell density of tissue and thus may indicate regions with a higher tumor load. Dynamic contrast-enhanced MM reflects permeability of the microvasculature and blood flow, correlated to the oxygenation of the tumor. These properties have impact on its radiation sensitivity. New questions must be addressed when these techniques are applied in radiation therapy: scanning in treatment position requires alternative solutions to the standard patient setup in the choice of receive coils compared to a diagnostic department. This standard positioning also facilitates repeated imaging. The geometrical accuracy of MR images is critical for high-precision radiotherapy. In particular, when multiparametric functional data are used for dose painting, quantification of functional parameters at a high spatial resolution becomes important. In this review, we will address these issues and describe clinical developments in MRI-guided dose painting.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1216-1223
JournalMagnetic Resonance Imaging
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2012


  • DWI
  • Radiation oncology
  • Dose painting


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