Monte Carlo simulation and analysis of proton energy-deposition patterns in the Bragg peak.

Research paper by Gloria G González-Muñoz, Nina N Tilly, José M JM Fernández-Varea, Anders A Ahnesjö

Indexed on: 08 May '08Published on: 08 May '08Published in: Physics in medicine and biology


The spatial pattern of energy depositions is crucial for understanding the mechanisms that modify the relative biological effectiveness of different radiation qualities. In this paper, we present data on energy-deposition properties of mono-energetic protons (1-20 MeV) and their secondary electrons in liquid water. Proton-impact ionization was described by means of the Hansen-Kocbach-Stolterfoht doubly differential cross section (DDCS), thus modelling both the initial energy and angle of the emitted electron. Excitation by proton impact was included to account for the contribution of this interaction channel to the electronic stopping power of the projectile. Proton transport was implemented assuming track-segment conditions, whereas electrons were followed down to 50 eV by the Monte Carlo code PENELOPE. Electron intra-track energy-deposition properties, such as slowing-down and energy-imparted spectra of electrons, were calculated. Furthermore, the use of DDCSs enabled the scoring of electron inter-track properties. We present novel results for 1, 5 and 20 MeV single-proton-track frequencies of distances between the nearest inter- (e(-)-e(-), e(-)-H+) and intra-track (e(-)-e(-), e(-)-H+, H+-H+) energy-deposition events. By setting a threshold energy of 17.5 eV, commonly employed as a surrogate to discriminate for elementary damage in the DNA, the variation in these frequencies was studied as well. The energy deposited directly by the proton represents a large amount of the total energy deposited along the track, but when an energy threshold is adopted the relative contribution of the secondary electrons becomes larger for increasing energy of the projectile. We found that the frequencies of closest energy-deposition events per nanometre decrease with proton energy, i.e. for lower proton energies a denser ionization occurs, following the trend of the characteristic LET curves. In conclusion, considering the energy depositions due to the delta electrons and at the core of the track, 1 MeV protons have an intrinsic capability of generating about five times more dual depositions within the characteristic 2 nm of the DNA-chain structure than 20 MeV protons.