Emerging technologies in brachytherapy

William Y. Song, James L. Robar, Björn Morén, Torbjörn Larsson, Åsa Carlsson Tedgren, Xun Jia

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Brachytherapy is a mature treatment modality. The literature is abundant in terms of review articles and comprehensive books on the latest established as well as evolving clinical practices. The intent of this article is to part ways and look beyond the current state-of-the-art and review emerging technologies that are noteworthy and perhaps may drive the future innovations in the field. There are plenty of candidate topics that deserve a deeper look, of course, but with practical limits in this communicative platform, we explore four topics that perhaps is worthwhile to review in detail at this time. First, intensity modulated brachytherapy (IMBT) is reviewed. The IMBT takes advantage of anisotropic radiation profile generated through intelligent high-density shielding designs incorporated onto sources and applicators such to achieve high quality plans. Second, emerging applications of 3D printing (i.e. additive manufacturing) in brachytherapy are reviewed. With the advent of 3D printing, interest in this technology in brachytherapy has been immense and translation swift due to their potential to tailor applicators and treatments customizable to each individual patient. This is followed by, in third, innovations in treatment planning concerning catheter placement and dwell times where new modelling approaches, solution algorithms, and technological advances are reviewed. And, fourth and lastly, applications of a new machine learning technique, called deep learning, which has the potential to improve and automate all aspects of brachytherapy workflow, are reviewed. We do not expect that all ideas and innovations reviewed in this article will ultimately reach clinic but, nonetheless, this review provides a decent glimpse of what is to come. It would be exciting to monitor as IMBT, 3D printing, novel optimization algorithms, and deep learning technologies evolve over time and translate into pilot testing and sensibly phased clinical trials, and ultimately make a difference for cancer patients. Today's fancy is tomorrow's reality. The future is bright for brachytherapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number23TR01
JournalPhysics in medicine and biology
Issue number23
StatePublished - Dec 7 2021


  • 3D printing
  • deep learning
  • emerging technologies in brachytherapy
  • intensity modulated brachytherapy
  • plan optimization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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