Purpose: Given its sensitivity to anatomical variations, proton therapy is expected to benefit greatly from integration with magnetic resonance imaging for online anatomy monitoring during irradiation. Such an integration raises several challenges, as both systems mutually interact. The proton beam will experience quasi-continuous energy loss and energy-dependent electromagnetic deflection at the same time, giving rise to a deflected beam trajectory and an altered dose distribution with a displaced Bragg peak. So far, these effects have only been predicted using Monte Carlo and analytical models, but no clear consensus has been reached and experimental benchmark data are lacking. We measured proton beam trajectories and Bragg peak displacement in a homogeneous phantom placed inside a magnetic field and compared them to simulations.
Methods: Planar dose distributions of proton pencil beams (80–180 MeV) traversing the field of a 0.95 T NdFeB permanent magnet while depositing energy in a PMMA slab phantom were measured using EBT3 radiochromic films and simulated using the Geant4 toolkit. Deflected beam trajectories and the Bragg peak displacement were extracted from the measured planar dose distributions and compared against the simulations.
Results: The lateral beam deflection was clearly visible on the EBT3 films and ranged from 1 to 10 mm for 80 to 180 MeV, respectively. Simulated and measured beam trajectories and Bragg peak displacement agreed within 0.8 mm for all studied proton energies.
Conclusions: These results prove that the magnetic field-induced Bragg peak displacement is both measurable and accurately predictable in a homogeneous phantom at 0.95 T, and allows Monte Carlo simulations to be used as gold standard for proton beam trajectory prediction in similar frameworks for MR-integrated proton therapy.