You are here

Positron Emission Tomography

The core of the TRIUMF nuclear medicine program is positron-emission tomography (PET) imaging, a technique whereby tiny amounts of radioactive nuclei, known as radioisotopes, are combined with certain biomolecules to form radiopharmaceuticals and injected into the body. The biomolecules can be “traced” by imaging the decay products outside the body. These decay products are two 511 KeV gamma rays produced by the  emission of a positron, which annihilates a neighbouring electron, releasing the gamma rays.


PET allows the concentration of positron-labeled compounds to be determined quantitatively in space and time within the living body. PET is more sensitive than any other human imaging method, such as MRI or CT, and has now become the “gold standard” for the detection of cancer. This is because it allows detailed diagnostic measurements of physiological and biochemical processes within the body.


Patient, Salma, about to receive a PET scan at UBC hospital under Mike Adam's supervision. 

PET research has benefitted significantly from federal investments, and Canada has established global prestige for its aggressive exploration and development of new radiotracers for cardiology, neurology, and oncology. TRIUMF’s PET program is focused on novel radiotracer development for neurological applications, for example in Parkinson’s disease, as well as applications to cancer detection and treatment, and for other diseases like diabetes. 

UBC ChemistryUBC PETPacific Parkinson's Research CentreBCCA