REVIEWER: Stephen L. Mahan, Ph.D. physicist, radiation oncology department at Thompson Cancer Survival Center.

BACKGROUND: The radiation oncology department at Thompson Cancer Survival Center (TCSC) is a leading provider of radiation services to the Knoxville, Tennessee, community.

PLATFORMS: Windows 2000 and Windows XP.

PROBLEM SOLVED: We implemented a groundbreaking radiation therapy technology that fuses volumetric mega volt CT imaging with continuous spiral delivery of intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) to more accurately deliver radiation to cancerous cells while sparing nearby healthy tissue. One of our primary responsibilities was to verify every radiation dose for each patient who receives IMRT treatments. The technique we chose involved extensive manual file manipulation to construct the inputs required by the dose calculation engine, which introduced the possibility for errors. We wrote code that performed those image and file manipulations automatically. The results from the quality assurance calculations are returned as a 3-D image cube, but we had no way of analyzing the results in a meaningful way. PV-WAVE from Visual Numerics was used to prepare the data for theoretical calculations and also for extracting 2-D planes from 3-D theoretical dose distributions. These extracted planes were formatted with PV-WAVE so they could be read by a third-party software package that compares therapy treatment plans with images of the actual radiation treatment. We also use PV-WAVE for other areas of research in image-guided radiation therapy and dose reconstruction. Without it, we would have wasted many hours developing and testing the algorithms ourselves.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: PV-WAVE has the ability to integrate into XML-based applications. We were able to use the product to write string manipulation code to parse XML files related to large 1GB+ sized patient archives. Parsing allows us to search various fields and then visualize patient-specific mega volt CT images, treatment deliveries and dosimetry. TCSC uses PV-WAVE's data visualization tools in almost every aspect of our research. Because the graphics tools are integrated with the array-oriented programming environment, we can immediately visualize data in multiple simulations and manipulate that data into figures that can be used for publications, or we can save the status of the variables to resume work at a later date. The array-oriented language also avoids complex loop structures that researchers usually encounter in scientific programming. The PV-WAVE environment is simple to use for rapid development and can save researchers hours of frustration trying to visualize results or build a simulation environment themselves.

STRENGTHS: The beauty of PV-WAVE is that we spend 90 percent of our research time developing concepts and only 10 percent of that time writing code to implement those concepts. PV-WAVE's other primary strengths include its advanced publication-quality graphics, the ability to create and export those graphic files easily, the ability to modify and test prototype code in real time and the powerful built-in functions.

WEAKNESSES: PV-WAVE software lacks an integrated editor that is optimized for PV-WAVE coding. An option is to use one of several free third-party text editors (jEdit, Nedit, Emacs) that recognizes PV-WAVE code and can do syntax highlighting.

SELECTION CRITERIA: During the late 1980s, I was introduced to Visual Numerics' IMSL numerical libraries, as well as the data visualization software that is now known as PV-WAVE. I used a direct competitor while in graduate school; however, our colleagues at TomoTherapy, Inc. were already using PV-WAVE, and it suited our needs for this research application.

DELIVERABLES: The powerful graphics and the array-oriented computational engine in PV-WAVE provided us with an efficient means for developing proof of principle concepts and scientific algorithms. PV-WAVE provides us with many different image-file formats that we have used directly in publications and presentations.

VENDOR SUPPORT: We are very pleased with the responsiveness of Visual Numerics' support team. PV-WAVE is easy to use, and we've needed minimal technical support.

DOCUMENTATION: The documentation is straightforward and very useful, and is provided in PDF and Windows help formats.

Visual Numerics, Inc.
12657 Alcosta Boulevard
Suite 450
San Ramon, CA 94583

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