Objective:
Earlier radiobiological equivalence relationships as derived for low-linear energy transfer (LET) radiations are revisited in the light of newer radiobiological models that incorporate an allowance for relative biological effectiveness (RBE).
Methods:
Linear-quadratic (LQ) radiobiological equations for calculating biologically effective dose at both low- and high-LET radiations are used to derive new conditions of equivalence between a variety of radiation delivery techniques. The theoretical implications are discussed.
Results:
The original (pre-LQ) concept of equivalence between fractionated and continuous radiotherapy schedules, in which the same physical dose is delivered in each schedule, inherently assumed that low-LET radiation would be used in both schedules. LQ-based equivalence relationships that allow for RBE and are derived assuming equal total physical dose between schedules are shown to be valid only in limited circumstances. Removing the constraint of equality of total physical dose allows the identification of more general (and more practical) relationships.
Conclusion:
If the respective schedules under consideration for equivalence both involve radiations of identical LET, then the original equivalence relationships remain valid. However, if the compared schedules involve radiations of differing LET, then new (and more restrictive) equivalence relationships are found to apply.
Advances in knowledge:
Theoretically derived equivalence relationships based on the LQ model provide a framework for the design and intercomparison of a wide range of clinical techniques including those involving high- and/or low-LET radiations. They also provide a means of testing for the validity of variously assumed tissue repair kinetics.