Martin P Tornai


Associate Professor of Radiology

The major research focus of my laboratory concerns high resolution and sensitivity molecular imaging of normalcy and/or disease in the breast using dedicated molecular 3D imaging techniques. Particular attention is paid to improved patient comfort such that no breast compression is necessary, which then dictates novel physics and engineering approaches to obtaining the highest quality data. The term "molecular imaging" means determining the spatial distribution of biological materials based on their molecular characteristics. Two examples include: the in vivo detection and spatial localization of tracer quantities of discretely emitted nuclear radiation which can be used to quantitatively measure aspects of the biological system (e.g. reaction kinetics, hyper/hypo-metabolism, etc.), and the in vivo spatial localization of objects based on their intrinsic physical properties, e.g. differentiation of skin, fat and connective tissue based on differences in their intrinsic electron densities.

Two classes of devices have been developed, are in refinement and are undergoing patient studies: (1) a dedicated, fully 3D, volumetric imaging Single Photon Emission Computed Tomograph (SPECT) device which produces functional molecular images with high resolution and sensitivity; and (2) a dedicated, fully 3D, volumetric x-ray CT device which incorporates a novel quasi-monochromatic x-ray source allowing more optimal imaging with lower radiation doses which produces molecular anatomical images. Along with geometric calibration objects, small animals and cadaveric breast tissue samples have been scanned, yielding high resolution and high quality in vivo images. Patient imaging has successfully begun on these novel developed systems. We have integrated a flexible patient bed to help comfortably position patients in each systems' field of view. Further, the individual systems have been integrated to form a hybrid SPECT/CT mammotomograph providing inherently coregistered, fully 3D, complementary molecular/anatomical information for the same patient and in a common field of view. These technologies could be used for diagnostic purposes, monitoring therapy and/or treatment planning, screening difficult or otherwise inconclusive breasts or scanning women at high risk for breast cancer. Due to the very low x-ray radiation doses possible to obtain the 3D images, the CT system could potentially be used to screen the population at large.

Appointments and Affiliations

  • Associate Professor of Radiology
  • Member of the Duke Cancer Institute

Contact Information

  • Office Location: Circuit Drive, Research Park Bldg, Rm 118, Durham, NC 27710
  • Office Phone: (919) 684-7940
  • Email Address:
  • Websites:


  • University of California - Los Angeles, 1997
  • Ph.D. University of California - Los Angeles, 1997
  • B.S. Cornell University, 1989

Awards, Honors, and Distinctions

  • Director's Award for Exemplary Service. Medical Physics Graduate Program at Duke University. 2017
  • Director's Award for Dedication and Service . Medical Physics Graduate Program at Duke-Kunshan University. 2016
  • Director's Award for Exemplary Service. Medical Physics Graduate Program at Duke University. 2015
  • Director's Award for Exemplary Service. Medical Physics Graduate Program at Duke University. 2013
  • Top 10 Medical Breakthroughs. "Reader's Digest" Magazine. 2008
  • Top 10 Medical Breakthroughs. "Prevention" Magazine. 2008
  • Healthcare Heroes Innovator/Researcher. Triangle Business Journal, Raleigh, NC. 2008
  • Dedicated Parent Volunteer. Duke Childrens' Campus. 2007
  • External Member. Hungarian National Academy of Sciences. 2003
  • IEEE Young Investigator Medical Imaging Science Award. IEEE Nuclear & Plasma Science Society. 1997

Courses Taught

  • BME 791: Graduate Independent Study
  • BME 792: Continuation of Graduate Independent Study
  • MEDPHY 745: Advanced Topics in Nuclear Medicine
  • MEDPHY 751-4: Frontiers of Biomedical Science
  • MEDPHY 791K: Independent Study in Medical Physics

Representative Publications

  • Crotty, DJ; McKinley, RL; Tornai, MP, Experimental spectral measurements of heavy K-edge filtered beams for x-ray computed mammotomography., Physics in Medicine and Biology, vol 52 no. 3 (2007), pp. 603-616 [10.1088/0031-9155/52/3/005] [abs].
  • Brzymialkiewicz, CN; Tornai, MP; McKinley, RL; Cutler, SJ; Bowsher, JE, Performance of dedicated emission mammotomography for various breast shapes and sizes., Physics in Medicine and Biology, vol 51 no. 19 (2006), pp. 5051-5064 [10.1088/0031-9155/51/19/021] [abs].
  • Brzymialkiewicz, CN; Tornai, MP; McKinley, RL; Bowsher, JE, Evaluation of fully 3-D emission mammotomography with a compact cadmium zinc telluride detector., Ieee Transactions on Medical Imaging, vol 24 no. 7 (2005), pp. 868-877 [10.1109/tmi.2005.852501] [abs].
  • Samei, E; Dobbins, JT; Lo, JY; Tornai, MP, A framework for optimising the radiographic technique in digital X-ray imaging., Radiation Protection Dosimetry, vol 114 no. 1-3 (2005), pp. 220-229 [10.1093/rpd/nch562] [abs].
  • McKinley, RL; Tornai, MP; Samei, E; Bradshaw, ML, Simulation study of a quasi-monochromatic beam for x-ray computed mammotomography., Medical Physics, vol 31 no. 4 (2004), pp. 800-813 [10.1118/1.1668371] [abs].
  • Tornai, MP; Bowsher, JE; Jaszczak, RJ; Pieper, BC; Greer, KL; Hardenbergh, PH; Coleman, RE, Mammotomography with pinhole incomplete circular orbit SPECT., Journal of Nuclear Medicine : Official Publication, Society of Nuclear Medicine, vol 44 no. 4 (2003), pp. 583-593 [abs].
  • Tornai, MP; Patt, BE; Iwanczyk, JS; Tull, CR; MacDonald, LR; Hoffman, EJ, A novel silicon array designed for intraoperative charged particle imaging., Medical Physics, vol 29 no. 11 (2002), pp. 2529-2540 [10.1118/1.1514241] [abs].
  • Bowsher, JE; Tornai, MP; Peter, J; González Trotter, DE; Krol, A; Gilland, DR; Jaszczak, RJ, Modeling the axial extension of a transmission line source within iterative reconstruction via multiple transmission sources., Ieee Transactions on Medical Imaging, vol 21 no. 3 (2002), pp. 200-215 [10.1109/42.996339] [abs].
  • Krol, A; Bowsher, JE; Manglos, SH; Feiglin, DH; Tornai, MP; Thomas, FD, An EM algorithm for estimating SPECT emission and transmission parameters from emissions data only., Ieee Transactions on Medical Imaging, vol 20 no. 3 (2001), pp. 218-232 [10.1109/42.918472] [abs].
  • Peter, J; Tornai, MP; Jaszczek, RJ, Analytical versus voxelized phantom representation for Monte Carlo simulation in radiological imaging., Ieee Transactions on Medical Imaging, vol 19 no. 5 (2000), pp. 556-564 [10.1109/42.870266] [abs].
  • Hoffman, EJ; Tornai, MP; Janecek, M; Patt, BE; Iwanczyk, JS, Intraoperative probes and imaging probes., European Journal of Nuclear Medicine, vol 26 no. 8 (1999), pp. 913-935 [10.1007/s002590050468] [abs].
  • Tornai, MP; Jaszczak, RJ; Turkington, TG; Coleman, RE, Small-animal PET: advent of a new era of PET research., Journal of Nuclear Medicine : Official Publication, Society of Nuclear Medicine, vol 40 no. 7 (1999), pp. 1176-1179 [abs].