Dr. Boguslaw Tomanek


Department of Oncology

Division of Medical Physics
    Contact details are for academic matters only.

About Me

I spent 15 years as Group Leader of MR Technology and a Director of the Institute for Biodiagnostics (West) at the National Research Council of Canada (NRC), working on innovative projects, such as intraoperative MRI (outcome: spin-off IMRIS Inc.) or robotic arms for neurosurgery (outcome: NeuroArm Inc). In 2014, I joined University of Alberta and focused my research on developing gradient-free MRI and collaborating with MagnetTx Oncology Solutions on innovative Linac-MRI system for image guided radiotherapy. I received financial support in research grants (CIHR, AIHS, NSERC). I established a Canadian program on molecular imaging (CIHR, Team Grant, $1.2M, Alberta Innovates Health Solutions, CRIO Grant, $738,000) by brining together a team of specialists from the universities of Alberta, Calgary, Victoria, Ottawa, BC, McGill, Lakehead, Université de Montréal.

I have been involved in MRI related research as proven by my high impact 138 publications (42 in the last 6 yrs) in world class journals including: Chem Mat, NMR Biomed; Phys Chem LettAdv Drug Deliv Rev; Neuro-Oncology, J Biol Chem; Pharm Res; J Cereb Blood Flow Metab; J Proteome Res; Br J Pharm, J Pain, Mol Cell Proteomics. I am an author of 8 book chapters and 208 conference presentations; I have delivered 115 talks as an invited speaker. I am a reviewer for 31 scientific journals and 20 granting agencies in Canada and abroad. I prepared 144 technical reports and obtained 7 patents; I have chaired at several international conferences and organized 8 international conferences. I received 5 awards including the Canadian Federal Technology Transfer Award. I significantly contributed to the creation of the four Canadian companies: MRV, IMRIS, NeuroArm, MRI-Tech. I consulted for Canadian and foreign biomedical companies (Siemens, GE, IMRIS etc) and industrial assistance programs (IRAP, Mitacs).

I have been involved in over 20 large (>$1M each) biomedical and over 10 large (>$1M each) industrial projects. Selected contributions include:

I. MRI equipment inventions resulting in improved diagnosis and treatment:

1. I led the team that constructed the world’s first Intraoperative MRI with a movable magnet, which has been used in thousands of operations world-wide (Federal Tech Transfer award). The system allows MR image-guided surgery without moving the patient. The technology formed the basis for IMRIS, a spin-off company, that has installed over 100 systems world-wide, has 200 employees and annual revenue of $30M.

 2. I developed radiofrequency coils that provide homogenous excitation and signal reception for improved MRI sensitivity in cancer detection. The coils provide superior image quality for breast, brain, skin and whole body MRI. These devices allow earlier cancer diagnosis, thus earlier and more efficient treatment. I passed my knowledge and experience to my trainees who created a sub-group focusing solely on producing RF coils MRI. The RF coils have been installed in Australia, North America, Europe and Asia. This work led to a commercial partnership with Siemens, Germany. I have invented and designed an RF coil for brain imaging that was a key element for the creation of the world’s first moveable MRI system for neurosurgery. I have also designed an RF coil for intraoperative imaging that is compatible with robotic arms working in the bore of an MR magnet, that was used by NeuroArm Inc.

4. I have participated in the development of prototype of the real time image-guided radiotherapy (Linac-MRI) system for the project led by Dr. Fallone. The system is suitable for a and comprises rotating both magnet and linac allowing observation of a tumor during radiation, ensuring that only the tumor is destroyed. The system increases precision of radiation treatment while minimizing its side effects. Recently a company MagnetTx was created to commercialize this invention.

II. Creation of programs resulting in cancer research advancements:

1. I established the Experimental Imaging Center at the University of Calgary by bringing together provincial and federal agencies, academia, health services providers and (such as NRC, Alberta Heritage, Alberta Science and Research Authority, Western Economic Diversification Canada, Alberta universities etc) that provided over $10M to create the facility. The Center focused on imaging of cancer using 9.4T pre-clinical MRI and 0.2T MRI for large animals. Over 200 publications and 20 grants totalling ~$20M have been acquired through this initiative. While I moved to the University of Alberta, the Center continues providing services to Alberta scientists.

2. I established the first Canadian Program for Molecular Imaging. Within this project my team developed specific and sensitive molecular MRI imaging methods for early cancer diagnosis (funded by CIHR ($1.2M) and subsequently by CHRP ($420k) and AIHS ($750k)). I have assembled a team of specialists from different fields: molecular biology, cell biology, physics, nanotechnology, breast oncology, animal and clinical imaging from across Canada, including University of Calgary, University of Alberta, University of British Columbia, Victoria University, University of Ottawa, Université de Montréal and McGill. The objective of the project was to construct novel targeted contrast agents for MR imaging that are specific to a particular type of tumor (e.g. glioma, triple negative breast cancer or non-small cell lung cancer etc). Within this program, we constructed new superparamagnetic nanoparticles (e.g. NaDyF4/NaGdF4 core/shell) that reduce both T1 and T2 relaxation times (thus creating positive contrast), conjugate them with single domain antibodies (sdAbs) against one and two tumor targets overexpressed by the targeted cancer, thus creating very specific and efficient contrast agents. While we showed their applications in pre-clinical studies, clinical applications are being pursued by my former students aiming to provide earlier and more accurate diagnosis, guide individualized therapies and allow monitoring of treatment. Several papers in high impact journals were published as the result (e.g. ACS Applied Mat Inter, IF=8.1; Chem of Mat, IF=9.5; J. Phys. Chem. Lett IF=9.4; Neuro-Oncology, IF=10.1, Nanoscale, IF=7.0). Currently my former students are developing a theoretical model of proton relaxation in the presence of core/shell nanoparticles to predict their relaxation times at various magnetic fields and optimize their parameters (core and shell size) to improve tumor delineation and obtain maximum tumor-tissue contrast in MRI.

3. My research on spinal cord functional MRI (fMRI) has shown that fMRI can be used to observe changes in neuronal activation of the injured spinal cord, a previously impossible feat. We developed a mathematical model for a new contrast mechanism in fMRI and termed it Signal Enhancement by Extravascular Protons (SEEP). The model explains contrast mechanisms and allows the application of fMRI to spinal cord injury. This discovery is being considered for clinical application during surgery for spinal cord injury and may replace EEG. Simultaneous fMRI of the brain and spinal cord was achieved for the first time. About 20 high impact papers were published in this area, including highly cited (over 400 times) publications in NeuroImage, Mag Reson Med. Spinal Cord etc.

4. I have developed MR Elastography (MRE) on the 3T MRI system using simple speakers to measure the stiffness of brain tissues. This technique allows measurements of the mechanical properties of tumors or other objects, allowing tumor diagnosis. The technique is more sensitive than current methods. An elastic model, Rayleigh Damping MRI was implemented. The goal of this work was not only to provide a new diagnostic tool but to incorporate this imaging information into an intra-operative MRI system, equipped with a surgical robot to assist in removal of brain tumors, and a surgical computer simulator capable of predicting the response of brain tissue to surgical procedures prior to the surgery. This technology was used for food freshness testing but it is still awaiting for its clinical

5. I created and led a team or researchers who applied resting state fMRI (rsfMRI) to identify alterations in the default mode network in “failed back surgery syndrome” patients relative to healthy subjects. RsfMRI experiments were performed and the data were analyzed using an independent component analysis. The results showed reduced functional connectivity of the default mode network and recruitment of additional pain modulation brain regions. This study leads to fundamental understanding of pain and may allow pain quantification and hence provide important information to medical doctors and insurance companies to evaluate real consequences of, for example, car accidents or hockey induced brain trauma.


Ph.D. Medical Physics, Institute of Nuclear Physics, Polish Academy of Sciences, Kraków, Poland, 1995.
D.Sc. Physics: Institute of Nuclear Physics, Polish Academy of Sciences, Kraków, Poland, 2007

Awards (selected):

  • Public Service Award of Excellence for Innovation, Ottawa, Canada
  • Outstanding Achievement Award, National Research Council of Canada, Ottawa
  • Technology Transfer Award, Federal Partners in Technology Transfer, Halifax, Canada
  • Individual Corporate Outstanding Achievement Award, National Research Council of Canada, Vancouver/Ottawa, Canada
  • Outstanding Achievement Award, Industrial Partnership Award, National Research Council of Canada, Ottawa

Reviewer for over 20 national and foreign granting agencies and over 30 scientific journals.


Selected courses:

Radiation Protection, Radiation Therapy Program, University of Alberta.

  1. Therapeutic and Imaging Equipment in Radiation Therapy, Radiation Therapy Program, University of Alberta.
  2. Radiation Protection, Radiation Therapy Program, University of Alberta
  3. Introduction to MRI for PhD students, University of Warsaw, Poland.


Molecular magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of cancer, multimodal imaging, RF coils for MRI, functional MRI, image guided therapy, new medical technologies.

Research Keywords

cancer imaging, diagnostic imaging, image-guided therapy, MRI, nanoparticles

Team Members

Jonathan Sharp, Aaron Purchase, Hongwei Sun