Grand challenges for medical physics in radiation oncology

Claudio Fiorino*, Robert Jeraj, Catharine H. Clark, Cristina Garibaldi, Dietmar Georg, Ludvig Muren, Wouter van Elmpt, Thomas Bortfeld, Nuria Jornet

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Medical physics has made considerable contributions to recent advances in radiation oncology. Medical physicists are key players in the clinical and scientific radiation oncology context due to their unique skill sets, flexibility, clinical involvement and intrinsic translational character. The continuing development and widespread adoption of "high-tech" radiotherapy has led to an increased need for medical physics involvement. More recently, our field is rapidly changing towards an era of "precision oncology". These changes have opened new challenges for the definition of the professional and scientific roles and responsibilities of medical physicists. In this paper, we have identified four grand challenges of medical physics in radiation oncology: (1) improving target volume definition, (2) adoption of artificial intelligence and automation, (3) development of predictive models of biological effects for precision medicine, and (4) need for leadership. New visions and suggestions to orientate medical physics to successfully face these new challenges are summarized. We foresee that the scientific and professional challenges of our times are pushing medical physicists to accelerate toward multidisciplinarity. Medical physicists are expected to innovatively drive interactions and collaborations with other specialists outside radiation oncology while the radiation physics core will remain central. Medical physicists will retain strong and pivotal roles in quality, safety and in managing ever more complex technologies. The new challenges will require medical physicists to continuously update skills and innovate education, adapt curricula to include new fields, reinforce multi-disciplinary attitude and spirit of innovation. These challenges require visionary and open leadership, which is able to merge established roles with the exciting new fields where medical physics should increasingly contribute. (C) 2020 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7-14
Number of pages8
JournalRadiotherapy and Oncology
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


  • Medical physics
  • Radiation oncology
  • AI
  • Target definition
  • Radiobiology models
  • Leadership
  • HEAD


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