Martin Paul 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.

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