The radiobiological modelling of all types of protracted brachytherapy is susceptible to uncertainties in the values of tissue repair parameters. Although this effect has been explored for many aspects of pulsed brachytherapy (PB), it is usually considered within the constraint of a fixed brachytherapy treatment time. Here the impact of repair parameter uncertainty is assessed for PB treatments of variable duration. The potential use of “block-schemes” (blocks of PB pulses separated by night-time gaps) is also investigated.
PB schedule constraints are based on the cervical cancer protocols of the Royal Marsden Hospital (RMH), but the methodology is applicable to any combination of starting schedule and treatment constraint. Calculations are performed using the biologically effective dose (BED) as a tissue-specific comparison metric. The ratio of normal tissue BED to tumour BED is considered for PB regimens with varying total pulse numbers and/or “block-schemes”.
For matched brachytherapy duration, PB has a good “window of opportunity” relative to the existing RMH continuous low dose rate (CLDR) practice for all modelled repair half-times. The most clear-cut route to radiobiological optimisation of PB is via modest temporal extension of the PB regimen relative to the CLDR reference. This option may be practicable for those centres with scope to extend their relatively short CLDR treatment durations.
Although daytime-only “block-scheme” PB for cervical cancer has not yet been employed clinically, the possibilities appear to be theoretically promising, providing the overall (external beam plus brachytherapy) treatment duration is not extended relative to current practice, such that additional tumour repopulation becomes a concern.