Martin Paul Tornai

Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department 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

  • Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Radiology

Contact Information

  • Office Location: Circuit Drive, Research Park Bldg, Rm 118, Durham, NC 27710
  • Office Phone: +1 919 684 7940
  • Email Address:
  • Websites:


  • B.S. Cornell University, 1989
  • Ph.D. University of California, Los Angeles, 1997
  • University of California, Los Angeles, 1997
  • American Board of Science in Nuclear Medicine, 9999

Courses Taught

  • MEDPHY 751-4: Frontiers of Biomedical Science
  • MEDPHY 745: Advanced Topics in Nuclear Medicine

Representative Publications

  • Crotty, D. J., R. L. McKinley, and M. P. Tornai. “Experimental spectral measurements of heavy K-edge filtered beams for x-ray computed mammotomography.” Phys Med Biol 52, no. 3 (February 7, 2007): 603–16.
  • Brzymialkiewicz, C. N., M. P. Tornai, R. L. McKinley, S. J. Cutler, and J. E. Bowsher. “Performance of dedicated emission mammotomography for various breast shapes and sizes.” Phys Med Biol 51, no. 19 (October 7, 2006): 5051–64.
  • Brzymialkiewicz, Caryl N., Martin P. Tornai, Randolph L. McKinley, and James E. Bowsher. “Evaluation of fully 3-D emission mammotomography with a compact cadmium zinc telluride detector.” IEEE Trans Med Imaging 24, no. 7 (July 2005): 868–77.
  • Samei, Ehsan, James T. Dobbins, Joseph Y. Lo, and Martin P. Tornai. “A framework for optimising the radiographic technique in digital X-ray imaging.” Radiat Prot Dosimetry 114, no. 1–3 (2005): 220–29.
  • McKinley, Randolph L., Martin P. Tornai, Ehsan Samei, and Marques L. Bradshaw. “Simulation study of a quasi-monochromatic beam for x-ray computed mammotomography.” Med Phys 31, no. 4 (April 2004): 800–813.
  • Tornai, Martin P., James E. Bowsher, Ronald J. Jaszczak, Brett C. Pieper, Kim L. Greer, Patricia H. Hardenbergh, and R Edward Coleman. “Mammotomography with pinhole incomplete circular orbit SPECT.” J Nucl Med 44, no. 4 (April 2003): 583–93.
  • Tornai, Martin P., Bradley E. Patt, Jan S. Iwanczyk, Carolyn R. Tull, Lawrence R. MacDonald, and Edward J. Hoffman. “A novel silicon array designed for intraoperative charged particle imaging.” Med Phys 29, no. 11 (November 2002): 2529–40.
  • Bowsher, J. E., M. P. Tornai, J. Peter, D. E. González Trotter, A. Krol, D. R. Gilland, and R. J. Jaszczak. “Modeling the axial extension of a transmission line source within iterative reconstruction via multiple transmission sources.” IEEE Trans Med Imaging 21, no. 3 (March 2002): 200–215.
  • Krol, A., J. E. Bowsher, S. H. Manglos, D. H. Feiglin, M. P. Tornai, and F. D. Thomas. “An EM algorithm for estimating SPECT emission and transmission parameters from emissions data only.” IEEE Trans Med Imaging 20, no. 3 (March 2001): 218–32.
  • Peter, J., M. P. Tornai, and R. J. Jaszczek. “Analytical versus voxelized phantom representation for Monte Carlo simulation in radiological imaging.” IEEE Trans Med Imaging 19, no. 5 (May 2000): 556–64.
  • Hoffman, E. J., M. P. Tornai, M. Janecek, B. E. Patt, and J. S. Iwanczyk. “Intraoperative probes and imaging probes.” Eur J Nucl Med 26, no. 8 (August 1999): 913–35.
  • Tornai, M. P., R. J. Jaszczak, T. G. Turkington, and R. E. Coleman. “Small-animal PET: advent of a new era of PET research.” J Nucl Med 40, no. 7 (July 1999): 1176–79.