Maastro Physics Research

At Maastro, research is performed on a wide range of topics in radiotherapy physics. Many of these topics are related to improving patient imaging by conducting research into novel CT imaging, small animal pre-clinical imaging and ultrasound imaging. Other topics include brachytherapy dose calculations and particle beam radiotherapy. Lately the use of artificial intelligence in radiotherapy is also studied.

About Physics Research

Research

Brachytherapy

In brachytherapy we work towards improved dose delivery by developing advanced (Monte Carlo) dose calculations, verification and imaging, as well as novel applicators. One such applicator developed at Maastro (patent pending) will allow the treatment of rectal tumors with 192Ir HDR brachytherapy sources. Maastro is pushing the boundaries in brachytherapy, being one of the first centers to use robotic arms to improve measurement accuracy and precision. Our center is developing a novel system that uses imaging panels for time-resolved dosimetry and treatment verification and safety.

Dose guided radiotherapy (DGRT)

The aim of DGRT is accurate measurement of the true dose delivered to the patient. The 2D and 3D in-vivo dose verification checks the actual dose delivered to the patient before and during treatment using the exit-dose electronic portal imaging device (EPID) measurement. Artificial intelligence methods are used to create decision models for adaptive radiotherapy using DGRT.

Dual-energy CT (DECT)

This research line concerns a novel imaging technique, to obtain more detailed information about patient anatomy and tissue compositions, which is needed for accurate dose calculations. At Maastro we have two state of the art DECT scanners. Research is performed on imaging and dose calculation accuracy, as well as on automatic contouring.

Proton therapy

The Maastro affiliated proton radiotherapy clinic has a state of the art synchrocyclotron (Mevion) for proton therapy, with advanced beam shaping capabilities, robotic couch, real-time patient tracking system, and integrated dual-energy CBCT imaging. Although the installation is recent (fall 2018), Maastro is known worldwide for its research in proton therapy that started more than a decade ago. The research possibilities with the current hardware available are numerous and we will focus on improving treatment planning and beam delivery. Our main lines of research include accurate dose calculation (state of art imaging (DECT) and Monte Carlo dose calculation), and patient and tumor tracking (in room imaging and 3D tracking system).

Small animal radiotherapy

We developed a novel research platform for the treatment of small animals. With an integrated image guidance and precision irradiation system at our disposal, we can use dual-energy cone-beam CT, fluoroscopy and bioluminescence imaging techniques and treat small animals using our dedicated treatment planning system with millimetric radiation beams. We have developed methods for improved imaging and irradiation and collaborated with numerous multidisciplinary studies.

Ultrasound imaging

We are also investigating the use of 3D ultrasound imaging for treatment verification. In ultrasound we work with state of the art technology (robotic arms, 3D tracking system, 3D ultrasound probes and artificial intelligence for image processing) to perform real time tumor tracking in radiotherapy. This technology will account for target motion allowing treatment adaptation in real time maximizing the dose to the tumor whilst reducing the dose to organs at risk.

Research facilities

  • Clinical linear accelerators
  • Treatment planning systems
  • A small animal radiotherapy system
  • Dual-energy CT scanners
  • Ultrasound imaging equipment
  • Various devices for measuring radiation dose
  • Simulation software for dose calculations and imaging
  • Precision robotic arms
  • Imaging panels for treatment verification
  • An electronic brachytherapy source

Education

Several team members are involved in teaching students from programs in engineering, physics, and medicine, from Maastricht University, Eindhoven University of Technology. There is also involvement in international teaching courses such as ESTRO and the Royal Marsden Radiotherapy course.

Our team

Current team

Professor:
Prof. dr. ir. Frank Verhaegen

Assistant professor:
Gabriel Paiva Fonseca, PhD

PhD students:
Isabel de Almeida, MSc
Murillo Bellezzo, MSc
Saskia Camps, MSc
Brent van der Heyden, MSc
Stefan van Hoof, MSc
Behzad Rezaeifar, MSc
Lotte Schyns, MSc
Ana Vaniqui, MSc
Cecile Wolfs, MSc

Alumni

  • Mark Podesta Time dependent verification of dynamic external beam radiotherapy (December 2016)
  • Lucas Persoon Novel in-treatment dose verification methods for adaptive radiotherapy (March 2016)
  • Skadi van der Meer Image-guided and adaptive radiation therapy with 3D ultrasound imaging (December 2015)
  • Shane White Application of Monte Carlo algorithms to the calculation of dose and RBE for low energy brachytherapy (November 2015)
  • Gabriel Fonseca Monte Carlo modelling of the patient and treatment delivery complexities for high dose rate brachytherapy (September 2015)
  • Patrick Granton SmART: Dosimetry and applications (July 2014)
  • Guillaume Landry The sensitivity of radiotherapy to tissue composition and its estimation using novel dual energy methods (June 2014)
  • Davide Fontanarosa Evaluation of speed of sound aberration and correction for ultrasound guided radiation therapy (March 2014)