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Adaptive ventilation guided radiation therapy could minimize the irradiation of healthy lung based on repeat lung ventilation imaging (VI) during treatment. However the efficacy of adaptive ventilation guidance requires that interfraction (e.g., week-to-week), ventilation changes are not washed out by intrafraction (e.g., pre- and postfraction) changes, for example, due to patient breathing variability. The authors hypothesize that patients undergoing lung cancer radiation therapy exhibit larger interfraction ventilation changes compared to intrafraction function changes. To test this, the authors perform the first comparison of interfraction and intrafraction lung VI pairs using four-dimensional cone beam CT ventilation imaging (4D-CBCT VI), a novel technique for functional lung imaging.

The authors analyzed a total of 215 4D-CBCT scans acquired for 19 locally advanced non-small cell lung cancer (LA-NSCLC) patients over 4–6 weeks of radiation therapy. This set of 215 scans was sorted into 56 interfraction pairs (including first day scans and each of treatment weeks 2, 4, and 6) and 78 intrafraction pairs (including pre/postfraction scans on the same-day), with some scans appearing in both sets. VIs were obtained from the Jacobian determinant of the transform between the 4D-CBCT end-exhale and end-inhale images after deformable image registration. All VIs were deformably registered to their corresponding planning CT and normalized to account for differences in breathing effort, thus facilitating image comparison in terms of (i) voxelwise Spearman correlations, (ii) mean image differences, and (iii) gamma pass rates for all interfraction and intrafraction VI pairs. For the side of the lung ipsilateral to the tumor, we applied two-sided t-tests to determine whether interfraction VI pairs were more different than intrafraction VI pairs.

The (mean ± standard deviation) Spearman correlation for interfraction VI pairs was , which was significantly lower than for intrafraction pairs ( , = 0.0002). Conversely, mean absolute ventilation differences were larger for interfraction pairs than for intrafraction pairs, with and , respectively ( < 10−15). Applying a gamma analysis with ventilation/distance tolerance of 25%/10 mm, we observed mean pass rate of (69% ± 20%) for interfraction VIs, which was significantly lower compared to intrafraction pairs (80% ± 15%, with ∼ 0.0003). Compared to the first day scans, all patients experienced at least one subsequent change in median ipsilateral ventilation ≥10%. Patients experienced both positive and negative ventilation changes throughout treatment, with the maximum change occurring at different weeks for different patients.

The authors’ data support the hypothesis that interfraction ventilation changes are larger than intrafraction ventilation changes for LA-NSCLC patients over a course of conventional lung cancer radiation therapy. Longitudinal ventilation changes are observed to be highly patient-dependent, supporting a possible role for adaptive ventilation guidance based on repeat 4D-CBCT VIs. We anticipate that future improvement of 4D-CBCT image reconstruction algorithms will improve the capability of 4D-CBCT VI to resolve interfraction ventilation changes.


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