Title:

Kind
Code:

A1

Abstract:

A mathematical contouring algorithm that automatically determines the planning volume of a sarcoma prior to designing a brachytherapy treatment plan. The algorithm, utilizing computational geometry, numerical interpolation and artificial intelligence (AI) techniques, returns the planning volume in digitized and graphical forms in a matter of minutes. Such an automatic procedure reduces labor time and provides a consistent and objective method for determining planning volumes. In addition, a definitive representation of the planning volume allows for sophisticated brachytherapy treatment planning approaches to be applied when designing treatment plans, so as to maximize local tumor control and minimize normal tissue complications.

Inventors:

Lee, Eva K. (Atlanta, GA, US)

Application Number:

10/465472

Publication Date:

08/05/2004

Filing Date:

06/19/2003

Export Citation:

Assignee:

LEE EVA K.

Primary Class:

International Classes:

View Patent Images:

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Primary Examiner:

SIMS, JASON M

Attorney, Agent or Firm:

THOMAS | HORSTEMEYER, LLP (ATLANTA, GA, US)

Claims:

1. A system for determining planning volumes of sarcomas for brachytherapy treatment, comprising: a means for receiving digital input data relating to a catheter coordinate that defines the location of a radiation dispensing catheter; and a means for executing a geometric algorithm from the input data, to automatically determine a planning volume of a sarcoma.

2. The system of claim 1, wherein the means for executing the geometric algorithm comprises: a means for constructing a plurality of circles from a plurality of cross-sections of the sarcoma, the circles being centered around the catheter and having a predefined radius; a means for constructing at least one tangent line on each circle that comprises the planning volume; a means for determining whether any of the plurality of circles may be bypassed, based on the spatial relationship between circles; and a means for generating contours of the planning volume.

3. The system of claim 1, wherein the planning volume is derived from a tumor bed.

4. A system for determining planning volumes of sarcomas for brachytherapy treatment, comprising: a memory module, comprising a geometric algorithm that is configured to generate a planning volume for brachytherapy treatment; and a processor configured to execute the geometric algorithm.

5. The system of claim 4, wherein the geometric algorithm for determining the planning volume comprises: logic configured to construct at least one circle from a cross-section of the sarcoma, the circle being centered around the catheter and having a predefined radius; logic configured to construct at least one tangent line on each circle that comprises the planning volume; logic configured to determine whether any circle may be bypassed, based on the spatial relationship between consecutive circles; and logic configured to generate contours of the planning volume.

6. The system of claim 4, further comprising an input device, wherein the input device is adapted to receive digital input data relating to a catheter coordinate, the catheter coordinate defining the location of a radiation dispensing catheter.

7. The system of claim 4, further comprising an output device, wherein the output device is adapted to receive planning volume data from the processor and display for clinician review.

8. The system of claim 4, wherein the planning volume is derived from a tumor bed.

Description:

[0001] This application is a divisional of copending U.S. utility application entitled, “Automated Planning Volume Contouring Algorithm for Adjuvant Brachytherapy Treatment Planning in Sarcoma,” having Ser. No. 09/872,118, filed Jun. 1, 2001, which is entirely incorporated herein by reference.

[0002] The present invention is generally related to using computational geometry and numerical interpolation techniques to develop a procedure that automatically outlines the contours of the planning volume for sarcoma tumor beds prior to designing brachytherapy treatment plans for soft-tissue sarcoma.

[0003] Soft-tissue sarcomas are tumors that arise in the soft tissues that connect, support and surround other parts of the body, such as muscles, tendons, fat, joint linings, and blood vessels. Although about one-half of the cases occur in the arms and legs, soft-tissue sarcomas are known to develop at any site in the body. Sarcoma tumors occur primarily in the second and sixth decades of life, but may occur at any age and, typically, the incidence rises with increasing age and is more prevalent in men.

[0004] There are more than fifty different types of soft-tissue sarcomas and sarcoma-like growths, at least thirty-five of which are malignant. Approximately 6,000 new cases of soft-tissue sarcoma are diagnosed each year in the United States. Additionally, the large majority of soft-tissue sarcomas are greater than 5 cm in size, requiring a combination of treatment techniques. Fortunately, soft-tissue sarcomas are relatively rare, representing only about one percent of all cancer cases, but they provide unique challenges in detection and treatment.

[0005] In the past, the standard treatment for soft-tissue sarcoma included amputation of limbs or radical surgery. In current practice, soft-tissue sarcomas are typically treated with a more conservative surgery combined with radiation therapy. The surgical removal of the tumor is the primary treatment. However, adjuvant (or additional) treatment with radiation therapy greatly increases the effectiveness of sarcoma treatment. Radiation therapy may be used before, during and/or after the surgical removal of the sarcoma. Typically, treatment involving both surgery and radiation therapy will include external-beam radiotherapy or brachytherapy.

[0006] Brachytherapy is an advanced cancer treatment that delivers radiation therapy from within the body (as opposed to external application of radiation to the tumor and surrounding tissues). The benefit of brachytherapy is that a high dose of radiation may be applied to the tumor or tumor bed (where the tumor was removed) while reducing the dose to surrounding healthy tissues.

[0007] In application, brachytherapy may be used to treat soft-tissue sarcomas in two ways. In one approach, during surgery, after the surgeon removes the tumor, the radiation oncologist implants a series of catheters into the tumor bed. Several days after the operation, radiotherapeutic seeds are inserted into each of these catheter tubes. These seeds stay in the catheter tubes for several days, delivering a high dose of radiotherapy to the area of the tumor. When the treatment is completed, both the radiotherapeutic seeds and the catheters are removed. The second form of brachytherapy is called high dose rate intra-operative radiation therapy. In this procedure, all the radiotherapy is actually delivered during the operation. This procedure requires a specially shielded operating room where both the surgery and the radiation therapy can be given. However, the high dose rate approach often requires a subsequent course of external beam radiation therapy.

[0008] The form of adjuvant brachytherapy in which catheters filled with radioactive seeds are inserted into the tumor or tumor bed is promising. However, this technique is limited by the difficulties of precisely placing catheter tubes into position and applying the correct amount of radiation to the affected areas while limiting the exposure of “healthy” tissues to the radiation. Several factors contribute to the difficulty of applying this treatment modality to soft-tissue sarcoma. First, each anatomical site and associated patient/tumor geometry is unique. Second, the tumor bed is usually of irregular shape. Third, the catheters, inserted during surgery, are often non-uniformly spaced and non-coplanar. Any of these factors may result in over or under treating the affected areas, as well as radiating healthy tissues.

[0009] In current practice, the planning volume for adjuvant brachytherapy treatment for soft-tissue sarcoma is typically derived via a tedious manual process, often resulting in the volume of the sarcoma not being appropriately determined. In the manual process, the outline of the volume is determined based on the positions of the catheters by hand calculations and planner observations. The current process for determining the planning volume is subjective, inconsistent, time-consuming, and highly dependent on the human planner. Thus, the current methods for determining the planning volume of sarcomas for brachytherapy may result in variability in the placement of the radiation seeds inside the catheters and variability in the distribution of radiation to the sarcoma bed.

[0010] In order to provide the most effective radiation therapy, the radiation dose distribution must cover all of the tumor bed and at the same time affect as little as possible of the healthy surrounding tissue. The ultimate location of the radiation seeds is one of the most important factors affecting the radiation dose distribution. Since the desired dose distribution is affected by the planning volume and the placement of the catheters and radiation seeds, the accurate derivation of the planning volume is a fundamental problem. The current practice does not provide a consistent, efficient and accurate method for determining the planning volume.

[0011] Thus, a heretofore unaddressed need exists in the industry to address the aforementioned deficiencies and inadequacies.

[0012] In order to increase the effectiveness of catheter brachytherapy treatment, the delivery of the radioactive sources to the affected areas (or planning volume) is critical. The present invention focuses on the automated generation of planning tumor volumes for the treatment of soft-tissue sarcomas. By using an automated contouring algorithm the planning tumor volume can be determined and the optimal placement and insertion of radioactive seeds can be designed to provide the most effective brachytherapy treatment.

[0013] The present invention provides a system and method for automatically determining the planning volume of a sarcoma by algorithmic manipulation of catheter coordinate input data. Initially, the catheters are inserted into the sarcoma bed during a surgical procedure. The volume of the sarcoma is divided into cross-sectional slices in which the catheters appear as “centers.” Around these centers, a circle having a certain radius is drawn. The radius of the circles is an indicator of the area over which the radioactive seeds will provide effective treatment. By configuring the radii of the circles to have sufficient size, the entire surface of each of the cross-sectional slices may be covered and, therefore, treated with the radioactive seeds. Optimally, the circles are configured such that all areas of the sarcoma receive treatment, while only a minimum of healthy tissue is exposed to the radiation.

[0014] The automated planning volume algorithm is comprised of a number of subroutines or sub-algorithms. The algorithm, utilizing computational geometry, numerical interpolation, and artificial intelligence (AI) techniques to manipulate the catheter coordinates, returns the planning volume in digitized and graphical forms in a matter of minutes. After the coordinates are inputted, the algorithm will automatically determine the “span,” or furthest distance between centers, and order the circles in a normal numerical progression. The algorithm is able to self-correct the numbering of the centers such that a smooth curve is defined which encompasses the affected tissue and limits incorporation of healthy tissue within the curves. Then, the algorithm selects tangent points for each circle and determines the corresponding tangent lines for groups of circles. By iteration of the tangent lines, the algorithm generates a series of curves. These curves provide the overall shape of the surface of each cross-sectional slice. The shapes of the individual slices may then be compiled so as to provide the overall shape and volume of the sarcoma bed. The algorithm outputs the resultant volume data as a graphical representation of the planning volume and the location of the digitized catheter coordinates therein.

[0015] The automatic generation of sarcoma planning volumes is a fast and efficient way to consistently and accurately determine planning volumes. Instead, of performing lengthy and difficult calculations by hand, the clinician may simply input the catheter coordinates for each slice, wait a few minutes for the algorithm to compute the data and generate the graphical outputs, and then review and evaluate the outputs. The automated approach provides a definitive representation of the planning volume and will allow for the application of more sophisticated brachytherapy treatment planning designs. Ultimately, the detailed volume graphics and coordinate data will aid in developing treatment plans that maximize local tumor control and minimize normal tissue complications.

[0016] Other systems, methods, features, and advantages of the present invention will be or become apparent to one with skill in the art upon examination of the following drawings and detailed description. It is intended that all such additional systems, methods, features, and advantages be included within this description, be within the scope of the present invention, and be protected by the accompanying claims.

[0017] The invention can be better understood with reference to the following drawings. The components in the drawings are not necessarily to scale, emphasis instead being placed upon clearly illustrating the principles of the present invention. Moreover, in the drawings, like reference numerals designate corresponding parts throughout the several views.

[0018]

[0019]

[0020]

[0021]

[0022]

[0023]

[0024]

[0025]

[0026] It has been found that accurately determining the planning volume of a sarcoma for radiation treatment can maximize local tumor control and minimize normal tissue complications and damage. The present invention is an automated tumor volume contouring algorithm which utilizes computational geometry, numerical interpolation, and artificial intelligence (AI) techniques to determine the planning volume of a sarcoma.

[0027] Briefly described, in architecture, one embodiment of the system, among others, can be implemented as follows. By combining both geometric, numerical and AI interpolation techniques, a mathematical algorithm can be used to automatically generate the planning volume of a sarcoma. The planning volume of a sarcoma can be viewed mathematically as the minimum smoothly connected volume that contains a set of “circles.” It is envisioned that the automated planning volume algorithm (APVA) system will be implemented in software, hardware or a combination thereof. The algorithms used to determine the planning volume are contingent only upon a series of digitized data inputs. With these inputs, the APVA system automatically calculates an output of digitized coordinates for the planning volume using a configuration of software and hardware. The actual algorithms performing the calculations are essentially a “black box” to the clinician, who merely inputs the data into the system and then evaluates the outputs.

[0028] During a surgical procedure, catheters are placed within the tumor bed and a series of images are taken showing the location of the catheters. Indicators are contained in the catheters to identify their positions and the potential positions of the radioactive seeds. To achieve clarity of seed images and accuracy in seed reconstruction, the patient is positioned so that the catheters are parallel to the gantry axis of rotation of the imaging mechanism. However, in the case where an anatomical site does not allow this, or when the catheters are not all parallel to each other, it is also possible that orthogonal anteroposterior (AP) and lateral films are taken. If there is difficulty in identifying seeds in some of the orthogonal films, oblique film may be needed in order to show all of the seeds. The seed positions are then reconstructed from two films that are less than 90° apart. Although films are mentioned specifically herein, it is envisioned that any means for imaging the sarcoma area may be utilized to provide a pictorial representation of the sarcoma bed and catheter positions.

[0029] Catheter and seed positions are reconstructed from the digitization of two films. The algorithm, which “reconstructs” the digital positions for the catheters, compensates for the beam divergence. For every seed position, each film will provide one longitudinal coordinate along the gantry rotation axis. If the patient remains stationary, the longitudinal coordinate will suffice to identify the seed position. However, the patient often moves during the time the two films are acquired; in which case, the final seed position is taken to be the midpoint of the two reconstructed positions. The difference between the two positions defines the localization error, which is normally set to a limit ranging from 0.2 to 0.5 cm. The seed reconstruction is verified by comparing a computer-generated picture of seed positions with the corresponding simulation film. The clinician will determine that the final seed position is acceptable when the localization error is less than approximately 0.2 cm after demagnification.

[0030] The target volume, or planning volume, of the sarcoma is defined to be the slab of tissue r cm perpendicularly away from the curvilinear plane defined by the mesh of catheters. If adjacent catheters are separated by more than 2r cm (or 1 cm), the tissue between the two catheters is assumed to be a part of the tumor bed. The point of intersection of a catheter and a cross-sectional slice is referred to as a “center.” Each center has an associated circle about it with a radius r. Typically, the radius r is taken to be 0.5 cm. The input data for the algorithm consists of the digitized coordinates of the catheter positions in each of the cross-sectional slices of the tumor bed and the estimated distance r from the catheters to the tumor surface.

[0031] Mathematically, one can view the planning volume as a minimum smoothly connected surface which contains a set of circles, each circle centered at a given catheter position in a given cross-sectional slice. The algorithm performs local interpolation on consecutive triplets of circles, and returns the planning volume in a matter of minutes.

[0032] Viewing each slice as a two-dimensional surface, the algorithm begins by labeling the centers in each slice in a “natural” order. The shape formed by following the associated circles in the specified order provides the overall shape of the tumor bed within the given slice. The algorithm then seeks to form a smoothly connected body that compactly encapsulates the shape of the tumor bed. The algorithm will perform well regardless of whether the catheters are all close together (with the target, a volume mass), the catheters are spread far apart in the plane, or the catheters are arranged in a convoluted way. The performance of the algorithm is measured by the algorithm's ability to automatically generate clinically acceptable smoothly connected surfaces for anatomical sites of different shapes.

[0033] Visually, one can think of the algorithm as constructing an “inner curve” and an “outer curve” tangent, to the ordered collection of circles. Construction of these curves requires the determination of tangent points followed by local interpolation. The algorithm works the same for determining both the outer-curve and inner-curve.

[0034] More particularly, the APVA system can be described as a series of algorithmic steps that determine the planning volume of a sarcoma bed from digitized catheter data and a given r. Following the surgical implantation of catheters into the sarcoma bed, the coordinates of the catheters are digitized and each “sphere” of a specified radius is centered at a given catheter position. The sarcoma bed is then divided into a number of cross-sectional slices. When viewed as cross-sectional slices, the catheter positions are the centers of circles with a specified radius r. The point of intersection of a catheter and a cross-sectional slice is referred to as a “center,” each of which has a corresponding radius r.

[0035] The digitized coordinates of the catheters and the corresponding radii for each of the cross-sectional slices of the tumor bed comprise the algorithm inputs. The first step of the algorithm is to find the “span” of the circles by locating the two centers, the origin and the destination, that are the furthest apart. Starting at the origin, the algorithm engages in a two-phase procedure of locating and labeling, from left to right, the centers in a “natural” order. The algorithm engages in dynamic local searching and uses a greedy approach to seek out the next-closest center for labeling. If, however, the positions of the catheters and the initial labeling thereof would result in an order of the centers that produces a kink or sharp indentation cutting off part of the sarcoma bed from treatment, the algorithm self-corrects and re-labels and re-orders the centers. Thus, the labeling of the centers and ordering of the circles provides the overall shape of the tumor bed surface.

[0036] The second step of the algorithm, the identification of tangent points, is performed after the labeling and ordering step. Based on the order of the centers, tangent points and their corresponding tangent lines are determined for each consecutive pair of circles.

[0037] The third step of the algorithm determines whether the middle circle of a group of three consecutive circles may be bypassed. Statistically based artificial intelligence (AI) has shown that the iterations on the circles can sometimes be simplified, and potential kinks removed from the generated curves of the sarcoma surfaces, by removing some of the middle circles from the calculations. For example, if analysis indicates that the middle circle

[0038] Following the determination of bypassed circles, step four of the algorithm involves the performance of local nonlinear interpolation on each consecutive pair of tangent lines to give the resultant curved surface of the tumor bed. The interpolation step consists of two phases; a nonintersecting phase, which identifies the non-overlapping tangent line segments, and an intersecting phase, which identifies the intersecting tangent line segments. The local interpolation step is performed twice so as to generate the inner and outer curves of the planning volume for each cross-sectional slice. The cumulative collection of curves resulting from the local interpolation step specifies the contours of the tumor bed.

[0039] From the iterative process of interpolation, the algorithm generates the digitized coordinates and graphical representations that define the planning volume. Finally, the output from the algorithm is evaluated and approved by a clinician.

[0040] The present invention can also be viewed as providing methods for mathematically determining the planning volume of sarcoma so as to produce improved brachytherapy treatments. In this regard, one embodiment of such a method, among others, can be broadly summarized by the following steps: insertion of catheters into the sarcoma bed; obtaining a series of images indicating the position of the catheters; digitization of the catheter images; generation of the planning volume and digital positions of the catheters within the planning volume; and comparison of the generated positions with the positions shown on the images. The generation of the planning volume and the digital catheter positions is accomplished with an automatic contouring algorithm comprising an ordering of circles and labeling of circle centers, identification of tangent points, determination of whether middle circles may be bypassed, and local interpolation.

[0041] It is anticipated that the Automated Planning Volume Algorithm (APVA) system of the invention can be implemented in software (e.g., firmware), hardware, or a combination thereof. In the currently contemplated best mode, the APVA system is implemented in software, as an executable program, and is executed by a special or general purpose digital computer, such as a personal computer (PC; IBM-compatible, Apple-compatible, or otherwise), workstation, minicomputer, or mainframe computer. As shown in

[0042] Generally, in terms of hardware architecture, as shown in

[0043] The processor

[0044] The memory

[0045] The software in memory

[0046] The APVA system

[0047] The I/O devices

[0048] If the computer

[0049] When the computer

[0050] When the APVA system

[0051] In an alternative embodiment, where the APVA system

[0052]

[0053] As shown in

[0054]

[0055] Let n be the number of centers _{nil }_{k }_{i}_{n}_{i }_{i}

[0056] 1. Initialization: Set N={1, . . . , n}; p[i]=nil for all i ε N; a_{nil}

[0057] 2. Iteration t: Find i ε L such that a_{i }_{lastindex}_{p[lastindex]}_{i}_{[lastindex]}_{i}

[0058] 3. Update: L L\{i}, t t+1, lastindex=i. If L=0, or if lastindex=d, go to step 4. Otherwise, go to step 2.

[0059] 4. Constructing the labels: Recover the sequence of centers by using p to backtrack.

[0060] Call the recovered sequence c_{i}_{|•|L }

[0061] If L=0, labeling is complete. Otherwise, |L| centers, represented by c_{i}_{|L|}_{i}_{k}_{i}_{i }_{k−1 }_{k }_{k }_{k+1}_{i }_{k−1 }_{k+1. }

[0062] After the centers _{3 }_{3}

[0063] For each consecutive pair of circles _{i }_{i+1}_{i }_{i }_{i}_{i+1 }_{i }_{i}_{i }_{i+1}_{i }_{i }_{i+1}

[0064] Having established the tangent points

[0065] The current circle, C_{i+1 }_{i }_{i+2}_{i }_{i}_{i+1 }_{i+2}_{i}_{i+1 }_{i+2}_{3}_{4}_{i }_{i+1 }_{i+1 }_{i+2 }_{3}_{4 }

[0066] Once the algorithm has determined which circles

[0067] The algorithm then performs local interpolation

[0068] For consecutive triplets of tangent lines _{i}_{i+1}_{i+2}_{i }_{i+1 }_{i+1 }_{i+2}_{i+1}_{i+1}_{i+2}_{i+3}

[0069] In the intersecting phase, the pairs of consecutive intersecting tangent line segments

[0070] For every consecutive pair of tangent lines _{i }_{i+1}_{i }_{i}^{l }_{i }_{i }_{i+1}_{i }_{i−1}_{i }_{i}_{i }_{i}^{l }_{i+1 }_{i+2}_{i+1}^{l }_{i}^{l }_{i+1}^{l }

[0071] The iterations will continue until C_{n }

[0072] The local interpolation

[0073] It should be emphasized that the above-described embodiments of the present invention, particularly, any “preferred” embodiments, are merely possible examples of implementations, merely set forth for a clear understanding of the principles of the invention. Many variations and modifications may be made to the above-described embodiment(s) of the invention without departing substantially from the spirit and principles of the invention. All such modifications and variations are intended to be included herein within the scope of this disclosure and the present invention and protected by the following claims.