Hongcheng Liu, Ph.D., Seeks to Develop Algorithms for Building Highly Accurate Radiation Therapy Treatment Plans

Hongcheng Liu, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Industrial & Systems Engineering (ISE) at the University of Florida, has received funding from the National Science Foundation to support his research in the area of health systems engineering. The new project focuses on creating algorithms to improve methods of radiation therapy used in cancer treatments by optimizing the treatment planning process.

Radiotherapy treatment planning (RTP) is one of the most common and effective treatment methods of cancer. Performing radiotherapy involves complex optimization algorithms that help determine the best and safest treatment plans for cancer patients. However, creating highly accurate plans for individual patients can be time-consuming due to the high dimensionality of the problems as well as uncertainties in the physical treatment process.

Dr. Liu and Bo Lu, Ph.D., from Radiation Oncology in the UF College of Medicine, are working to develop improved algorithms that determine a more precise measure of the amount of radiation treatment needed for each patient.

“I am excited about the opportunity to create methodologies and tools for high-dimensional optimization problems, which are increasingly common in engineering applications. In particular, I am hopeful that the new algorithms from this project will improve the efficiency and fidelity of the current optimization engines for radiation treatment planning,” said Dr. Liu.

This new and improved algorithm is expected to be a fundamentally novel integration of derivative-free optimization, high-dimensional statistics, deep learning, and a sampling-based technique to evaluate a stochastic system known as (quasi-) Monte Carlo simulation. If successful, the outcomes of this project could accelerate solutions for RTP, free up time for the practitioners, reduce costs, and potentially allow more patients to be treated in a timely manner.

This research is the first step of a long-term research program that Dr. Liu has been working on since Fall of 2017. Eventually, Dr. Liu and Dr. Bo hope to develop new modeling and optimization approaches to provide precision radiation therapy treatment for cancer patients.