Course Title: Radiotherapy Physics and Modelling

Part A: Course Overview

Course Title: Radiotherapy Physics and Modelling

Credit Points: 12.00

Course Coordinator: Professor Rick Franich

Course Coordinator Phone: +61 3 9925 3390

Course Coordinator Email:

Course Coordinator Location: 14.6.07

Pre-requisite Courses and Assumed Knowledge and Capabilities

Students undertaking this course are assumed to have a thorough grounding in the following areas of undergraduate Physics. A Bachelor’s degree majoring in Physics or another related discipline with appropriate experience would normally be sufficient.

  • Scientific mathematics, calculus, uncertainties, signal processing, kinematics, electromagnetism, optics and waves, radiation physics, radiation interactions with matter, operation and principles of a range of radiation detectors.

It is highly recommended that Medical Physics students have completed the Radiation & Laboratory course (PHYS2167) earlier in your program.

Course Description

This course is a core component of the MC215 Master of Medical Physics and MR233 Master of Applied Science (Health & Medical and Physics). The course is also relevant to the conduct of a successful research project within the context of the RMIT higher degrees program.

 It aims to provide you with a knowledge and understanding of the physical and technological basis of operation of a range of equipment used for the various radiotherapy treatment modalities including brachytherapy and external beam radiotherapy. The radiobiological basis for radiation treatment of cancer is followed by the production and control of treatment beams, dosimetry theory, and the principles of treatment planning. Treatment modalities including high energy photon and electrons, orthovoltage, high and low dose rate brachytherapy sources are discussed. Emerging technologies such as heavy ions and synchrotron radiation are introduced.

 Site visits should be conducted to operating radiotherapy centres to provide context and to gain a clinical perspective for contemporary trends in practice such as the integration of diagnostic imaging and image guidance in therapy facilities.

Monte carlo radiation transport modelling will be employed to solve complex radiation interaction problems via simulation. The parallels between the stochastic nature of radiation interactions with matter and the pseudo-random computational approach to solving the macroscopic radiation transport equations are emphasized. The monte carlo code EGSnrc and its Usercodes are employed to model a range of radiotherapy and detection related problems.

Objectives/Learning Outcomes/Capability Development

This course contributes to the following Program Learning Outcomes for MC215 Master of Medical Physics and MR233 Master of Applied Science (Health & Medical and Physics):

PLO-1 Advanced and integrated understanding of the applications of physical processes to the diagnosis and treatment of disease, including an understanding of contemporary developments in professional practice.

PLO-2 Advanced understanding of the origins of radiation and its interactions with matter pertaining to the production and use of ionising radiation, with particular regard to the protection of people and environments.

PLO-4 Skills to investigate, analyse and interrogate scientific data to ensure quality control of complex technological systems and to diagnose causes of discrepancies.

PLO-5 Skills to identify problems, generate novel solutions and evaluate their effectiveness.

PLO-7 Technical and research skills to evaluate developments in diagnostic and therapeutic technology.

PLO-9 Demonstrate the application of knowledge and skills with a high level of personal autonomy and accountability.

On successful completion of this course you should be able to:

  1. Demonstrate understanding of the physical principles of operation of various sources of radiation used for internal and external radiotherapy;
  2. Justify the radiobiological basis for radiotherapy and calculate and optimize biological effects of irradiation on tumours;
  3. Critically evaluate  treatment planning processes and verification;
  4. Calculate reference doses for the validation of dose distributions produced by radiotherapy treatment planning system algorithms;
  5. Analyse radiation transport problems;
  6. Design and develop radiation transport simulations;
  7. Evaluate the adequacy and effectiveness of radiation transport modelling.

Overview of Learning Activities

You should learn in this course by:

  • Attendance at classes where material will be presented and explained, and the subject will be illustrated with demonstrations and examples;
  • Private study, working through the theory as presented inclasses, texts and notes, and gaining practice at solving conceptual and numerical problems;
  • Completing tutorial problems designed to give you further practice in application of theory, and to give feedback on your progress and understanding;
  • A series of radiation transport simulation tutorials will guide you through the use of EGSnrc and its user codes to model a range of problems
  • Completing written and online assignments consisting of numerical and other problems requiring an integrated understanding of the subject matter;
  • Site visits to operating radiotherapy centres to provide context and to gain a clinical perspective for contemporary trends in practice such as the integration of diagnostic imaging and image guidance in therapy facilities.

Higher Degree by Research students taking this course as part of MR233 Master of Applied Science (Health & Medical and Physics)program may be approved to take this course in Distance Learning mode and will be provided with access to online lecture materials and lecture recordings.

Overview of Learning Resources

You should be able to access comprehensive course information, lecture notes, journal papers, learning materials and other useful resources through the myRMIT website. Lists of relevant reference texts, resources in the library and internet-based resources should be provided in the lecture notes and during the classes.

Overview of Assessment

This course has no hurdle requirements.

Assessment Task 1: Topic Tests
Weighting 30%
This assessment task supports CLOs 1, 2, 5, 6, & 7 

Assessment Task 2: Assignments and Reports
Weighting 40%
This assessment task supports CLOs 3, 4, 5, 6, & 7 

Assessment Task 3: End of Semester Skills and Capabilities Assessment
Weighting 30%
This assessment supports CLOs 1, 2, 3, & 4