Adjustable robust treatment-length optimization in radiation therapy

Traditionally, optimization of radiation therapy (RT) treatment plans has been done before the initiation of RT course, using population-wide estimates for patients’ response to therapy. However, recent technological advancements have enabled monitoring individual patient response during the RT course, in the form of biomarkers. Although biomarker data remains subject to substantial uncertainties, information extracted from this data may allow the RT plan to be adapted in a biologically informative way. We present a mathematical framework that optimally adapts the treatment length of an RT plan based on the acquired mid-treatment biomarker information, while accounting for the inexact nature of this information. We formulate the adaptive treatment-length optimization problem as a 2-stage problem, wherein the information about the model parameters gathered during the first stage influences the decisions in the second stage. Using Adjustable Robust Optimization (ARO) techniques we derive explicit optimal decision rules for the stage-2 decisions and solve the optimization problem. The problem allows for multiple worst-case optimal solutions. To discriminate between these, we introduce the concept of Pareto Adjustable Robustly Optimal (PARO) solutions. In numerical experiments using lung cancer patient data, the ARO method is benchmarked against several other static and adaptive methods. In the case of exact biomarker information, there is sufficient space to adapt, and numerical results show that taking into account both robustness and adaptability is not necessary. In the case of inexact biomarker information, accounting for adaptability and inexactness of biomarker information is particularly beneficial when robustness (w.r.t. organ-at-risk (OAR) constraint violations) is of high importance. If minor OAR violations are allowed, a nominal folding horizon approach (NOM-FH) is a good performing alternative, which can outperform ARO. Both the difference in performance and the magnitude of OAR violations of NOM-FH are highly influenced by the biomarker information quality.



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