Proton radiography is a promising imaging technique that can be used to improve the treatment plan quality for proton therapy, by providing accurate estimates of proton stopping power. While a proton radiograph has accurate information about proton stopping power, it also has an inherently low tissue contrast for diagnostic purposes, as compared to X-ray imaging. The nature of energetic, massive protons as a radiographic probe is that they require a high-Z tracer to provide sufficient proton scatter in order to delineate target structures. Gold nanoparticles could be that ideal tracer due to a Z = 79, and their biocompatibility. Here the detection thresholds for gold-nanoparticle targeted tumors are evaluated using instantaneous, 800-MeV proton radiography, at the Los Alamos Neutron Science Center. Data is compared against MRI data in pre-clinical mouse models with 4T1 tumors directly injected with gold nanoparticle solution. The proton radiography system is then optimized using novel collimation schemes, including a dark field proton radiographic setup, that aimed to increase sensitivity and reduce dose. Results evaluated here are extrapolated to 211-MeV proton radiographic energy, to compare against expectations at clinical treatment energies. At that lower energy, proton radiography is more sensitive to the multiple Coulomb scattering introduced by a high-Z tracer.
Proton radiography is a potentially valuable tool for the image guidance of proton therapy cancer treatment. While proton therapy is desirable due to its high dose deposition accuracy, proton radiography, which could, in theory, be applied simultaneously to treatment, has an intrinsically low soft tissue contrast, making it difficult to visualize tumors. To enhance this tumor contrast, high-Z nanoparticles could be targeted to a tumor before imaging. To assess the efficacy of gold as a contrast agent, phantoms consisting of gold leaf mounted on acrylic backing were developed to simulate a tumor tagged with gold nanoparticles (AuNPs). Calculations are presented to correlate a given thickness of gold with scenarios for tagging cancers with AuNPs, in terms of the size of the functionalized nanoparticles, the diameter of the tumor, as well as the efficiency by which the nanoparticles are taken up by the malignant cells. These calculations determined phantoms that best describe particular tagging conditions, and are also applicable to ex vivo specimens made by injecting AuNPs into a mouse model. Using a ×3 proton magnifying lens with the 800-MeV LANSCE proton beam, a 1-μm-thick Au foil was radiographically discernible within 1 cm of acrylic, representing sensitivity to a material percent density change of 0.2%. This indicates that AuNP-enhanced proton radiography could be used to characterize small tumors, allowing for early detection and treatment of malignant tissues, as well as for in situ imaging for enhanced treatment localization.
Our team at Los Alamos National Laboratory has performed many successful energy-spectra measurements of both continuous and flash, intense radiographic sources with Compton spectrometers. In this method, a collimated beam of x-rays incident on a convertor foil ejects Compton electrons. A collimator may be inserted into the entrance of the spectrometer to select the angular acceptance of the forward-scattered electrons, which then enter the magnetic field region of the spectrometer. The position of the electrons at the magnet’s focal plane is proportional to the square root of their momentum, allowing the x-ray spectrum to be reconstructed. A Compton spectrometer with an energy range of <0.5 to 20 MeV recently measured the x-ray energy spectrum produced by the Mercury pulsed-power machine at the Naval Research Laboratory in its large-area diode configuration. These first-ever results from a distributed x-ray source will be presented.
Proton beam radiation therapy is at the forefront of modern techniques for cancer treatment, due to its high level of radiation-dose deposition accuracy. This treatment accuracy, however, is limited by the ability to position the treatment beam within the patient's anatomy. Typically, the patient's position is registered orthogonally, using X-ray imaging. However, if instead, beam's-eye-view imaging were enabled by proton radiography, dose deposition measurements could be improved with intrinsically-registered patient positioning. At a typical treatment facility, with a maximum proton energy on the order of 250 MeV, imaging capabilities are limited by the high degree of multiple-Coulomb scatter protons accumulate before exiting the patient. However, in increasing the proton energy from 250 MeV to 800 MeV, the accumulated scatter is reduced by a factor of five, and, coupled with a magnetic-lens, collimated imaging system, enables high-resolution, high-contrast imaging. Further, based on results from Geant4, the dose profile of this higher energy beam is tightly constrained, a fact which may be exploited in the future to further increase treatment accuracy. The full-width half-max of the dose-deposition kernels at 33.4 cm depth (the 250-MeV Bragg peak) are 1.56 cm for 250-MeV protons, compared with 0.52 cm for 800-MeV protons. At 1-cm downstream of this point, the 250-MeV kernel has dropped off to 32%, while the 800-MeV dose is still at 95%. An 800-MeV proton treatment plan exploiting the constrained lateral profile would utilize techniques developed for photon therapy, to deliver the dose from 360° and tightly constrain the dose, stereotactically.
Our team at Los Alamos National Laboratory has successfully employed Compton spectrometers to measure the X-ray spectra of both continuous and flash radiographic sources. In this method, a collimated beam of X-rays incident on a converter foil ejects Compton electrons. A collimator may be inserted into the entrance of the spectrometer to narrow the angular acceptance of the forward-scattered electrons, which then enter the magnetic field region of the spectrometer. The position of the electrons at the magnet’s focal plane is proportional to the square root of their momentum, allowing the X-ray spectrum to be reconstructed. A new samarium-cobalt spectrometer with an energy range of 50 keV to 4 MeV has been fielded at two facilities. The X-ray generating machines produced intense photon beams (> 4 rad at 1 m) with spectral endpoints below 3 MeV. Recent experimental results will be presented.
During the previous three years, a Compton spectrometer has successfully measured the x-ray spectra of both continuous
and flash radiographic sources. In this method, a collimated beam of x-rays incident on a convertor foil ejects Compton
electrons. A collimator in the entrance to the spectrometer selects the forward-scattered electrons, which enter the
magnetic field region of the spectrometer. The position of the electrons at the magnet’s focal plane is proportional to the
square root of their momentum, allowing the x-ray spectrum to be reconstructed. The spectrometer is a neodymium-iron
magnet which measures spectra in the <1 MeV to 20 MeV energy range. The energy resolution of the spectrometer was
experimentally tested with the 44 MeV Short-Pulse Electron LINAC at the Idaho Accelerator Center. The measured
values are mostly consistent with the design specification and historical values of the greater of 1% or 0.1 MeV.
Experimental results from this study are presented in these proceedings.
Nuclear Quadrupole Resonance (NQR) has been demonstrated for the detection of 14-N in explosive compounds. Application of a material specific radio-frequency (RF) pulse excites a response typically detected with a wire- wound antenna. NQR is non-contact and material specific, however fields produced by NQR are typically very weak, making demonstration of practical utility challenging. For certain materials, the NQR signal can be increased by transferring polarization from hydrogen nuclei to nitrogen nuclei using external magnetic fields. This polarization enhancement (PE) can enhance the NQR signal by an order of magnitude or more. Atomic magnetometers (AM) have been shown to improve detection sensitivity beyond a conventional antenna by a similar amount. AM sensors are immune to piezo-electric effects that hamper conventional NQR, and can be combined to form a gradiometer for effective RF noise cancellation. In principle, combining polarization enhancement with atomic magnetometer detection should yield improvement in signal-to-noise ratio that is the product of the two methods, 100-fold or more over conventional NQR. However both methods are even more exotic than traditional NQR, and have never been combined due to challenges in operating a large magnetic field and ultra-sensitive magnetic field sensor in proximity. Here we present NQR with and without PE with an atomic magnetometer, demonstrating signal enhancement greater than 20-fold for ammonium nitrate. We also demonstrate PE for PETN using a traditional coil for detection with an enhancement factor of 10. Experimental methods and future applications are discussed.
Accurate knowledge of the x-ray spectra used in medical treatment and radiography is important for dose calculations
and material decomposition analysis. Indirect measurements via transmission through materials are possible. However,
such spectra are challenging to measure directly due to the high photon fluxes. One method of direct measurement is via
a Compton spectrometer (CS) method. In this approach, the x-rays are converted to a much lower flux of electrons via
Compton scattering on a converter foil (typically beryllium or aluminum). The electrons are then momentum selected by
bending in a magnetic field. With tight angular acceptance of electrons into the magnet of ~ 1 deg, there is a linear
correlation between incident photon energy and electron position recorded on an image plate. Here we present
measurements of Bremsstrahlung spectrum from a medical therapy machine, a Scanditronix M22 Microtron. Spectra
with energy endpoints from 6 to 20 MeV are directly measured, using a CS with a wide energy range from 0.5 to 20
MeV. We discuss the sensitivity of the device and the effects of converter material and collimation on the accuracy of
the reconstructed spectra. Approaches toward improving the sensitivity, including the use of coded apertures, and
potential future applications to characterization of spectra are also discussed.
A Compton spectrometer has been re-commissioned for measurements of flash radiographic sources. The determination of the energy spectrum of these sources is difficult due to the high count rates and short nature of the pulses (~50 ns). The spectrometer is a 300 kg neodymium-iron magnet which measures spectra in the <1 MeV to 20 MeV energy range. Incoming x-rays are collimated into a narrow beam incident on a converter foil. The ejected Compton electrons are collimated so that the forward-directed electrons enter the magnetic field region of the spectrometer. The position of the electrons at the magnet’s focal plane is a function of their momentum, allowing the x-ray spectrum to be reconstructed. Recent measurements of flash sources are presented.
Flash radiography is a diagnostic with many physics applications, and the characterization of the energy spectra of such sources is of interest. A Compton spectrometer has been proposed to conduct these measurements. Our Compton spectrometer is a 300 kg neodymium-iron magnet constructed by Morgan et al1, and it is designed to measure spectra in the <1 MeV to 20 MeV range. In this device, the x-rays from a radiographic source are collimated into a narrow beam directed on a converter foil. The forward-selected Compton electrons that are ejected from the foil enter the magnetic field region of the spectrometer. The electrons are imaged on a focal plane, with their position determined as a function of their energy. The x-ray spectrum is then reconstructed. Challenges in obtaining these measurements include limited dose of x-rays and the short pulse duration (about 50 ns) for time-resolved measurements. Here we present energy calibration measurements of the spectrometer using a negative ion source. The resolution of the spectrometer was measured in previous calibration experiments to be the greater of 1% or 0.1 MeV/c1. The reconstruction of spectra from a bremsstrahlung source and Co-60 source are also presented.