The distribution of fragmentation products predicted by Monte Carlo simulations of heavy ion therapy depend on the hadronic physics model chosen in the simulation. This work aims to evaluate three alternative hadronic inelastic fragmentation physics options available in the Geant4 Monte Carlo radiation physics simulation framework to determine which model most accurately predicts the production of positron-emitting fragmentation products observable using in-beam PET imaging. Fragment distributions obtained with the BIC, QMD, and INCL + + physics models in Geant4 version 10.2.p03 are compared to experimental data obtained at the HIMAC heavy-ion treatment facility at NIRS in Chiba, Japan. For both simulations and experiments, monoenergetic beams are applied to three different block phantoms composed of gelatin, poly(methyl methacrylate) and polyethylene. The yields of the positron-emitting nuclei 11C, 10C and 15O obtained from simulations conducted with each model are compared to the experimental yields estimated by fitting a multi-exponential radioactive decay model to dynamic PET images using the normalised mean square error metric in the entrance, build up/Bragg peak and tail regions. Significant differences in positron-emitting fragment yield are observed among the three physics models with the best overall fit to experimental 12C and 16O beam measurements obtained with the BIC physics model.
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