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Meyer, Sebastian ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-2510-7045; Bortfeldt, Jonathan ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-0777-985X; Lämmer, Paulina; Englbrecht, Franz S.; Pinto, Marco ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-6835-2561; Schnürle, Katrin; Würl, Matthias ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-3044-449X and Parodi, Katia ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-7779-6690 (20. April 2020): Optimization and performance study of a proton CT system for pre-clinical small animal imaging. In: Physics in Medicine & Biology [PDF, 14MB]

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Proton computed tomography (pCT) promises to reduce or even eliminate range uncertainties inherent in the conversion of Hounsfield units into relative stopping power (RSP) for proton therapy treatment planning. This is of particular interest for proton irradiation studies in animal models due to the high precision required and uncertainties in tissue properties. We propose a dedicated single-particle tracking pCT system consisting of low material budget floating strips Micromegas detectors for tracking and a segmented time-projection-chamber with vertical Mylar absorbers, functioning as a range telescope. Based on Monte Carlo simulations of a realistic in silico beam and detector implementation, a geometrical optimization of the system components was conducted to safeguard an ideal operation close to intrinsic performance limits at 75 MeV. Moreover, the overall imaging capabilities relevant for pre-clinical proton therapy treatment planning were evaluated for a mouse model. In order to minimize extrinsic uncertainties in the estimated proton trajectories, a spacing of the two tracking planes of at least 7 cm is required in both tracking detectors. Additionally, novel in-house developed and produced aluminum-based readout electrodes promise superior performance with around 3mm-1 spatial resolution due to the reduced material budget. Concerning the range telescope, an absorber thickness within 500 µm to 750 µm was found to yield the best compromise between water-equivalent path length resolution and complexity of the detector instrumentation, still providing sub-0.5% RSP accuracy. The optimized detector configuration enables better than 2% range accuracy for proton therapy treatment planning in pre-clinical data sets. This work outlines the potential of pCT for small animal imaging. The performance of the proposed and optimized system provides superior treatment planning accuracy compared to conventional X-ray CT. Thus, pCT can play an important role in translational and pre-clinical cancer research.

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